Ballarat residents are no closer to knowing when a mass COVID vaccination centre will open, despite most major regional Victorian cities already rolling out the jabs or at least having a venue for a vaccine hub identified.
Bendigo's mass vaccination hub welcomed its first patients yesterday, while Geelong has set up a clinic in the old Ford factory, Warrnambool started works on its clinic last month and Albury Wodonga Health has identified a former supermarket as the home for its clinic.
The Geelong site will have the capacity to vaccinate more than 10,000 people a week depending on stock supply of the vaccine, and Warrnambool will have capacity to treat 40,000 people within 12 months.
But Ballarat is lagging behind with no announcement on a venue or timeline for a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub dispensing the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The rollout is currently restricted to high-risk priority groups in phases 1A and 1B of the vaccination program including healthcare staff, disability workers, emergency service workers, and people aged 70 or over.
One of the challenges facing Ballarat and other regional areas in establishing the mass vaccination hubs is finding enough qualified staff.
"You don't have a huge pool of qualified vaccinators sitting with nothing to do and waiting for a phone call," said UFS Pharmacies general manager Lynne McLennan.
"Health workforce shortage issues are very real in regional areas and it's difficult to find extra staff to ramp up a huge vaccination clinic."
The UFS vaccination clinic in Drummond Street will take eligible UFS patients and eligible community members for the free vaccine and strictly by appointment only. The clinic will soon have the capacity to inoculate a maximum of 150 people per day but is booked out until the end of May.
But Ms McLennan urged people not to panic at the delay.
"There's a process, we are expecting other vaccination opportunities to come online over time," she said. "There will be enough vaccine for everyone in Australia and Ballarat residents are not in any immediate danger of contracting COVID."
On Wednesday Victoria recorded its 40th consecutive day with no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.
Australia has administered about 855,000 vaccine doses despite the government promising four million jabs by the end of March and the vaccine rollout lagging far behind initial projections which Prime Minister Scott Morrison blames on supply issues with millions of AstraZeneca doses allegedly blocked from being sent to Australia.
Ms McLennan praised the government's announcement that a million doses of vaccine from Australia's batch would be sent to Papua New Guinea.
IN OTHER NEWS
"We should applaud that because we need to remember there are still people dying of COVID in huge numbers overseas not even being able to access intensive care and hospital care. We need to remember we are exceptionally fortunate here," she said.
In response to a direct question on Tuesday about a venue and timeline for a Ballarat mass COVID vaccination hub, a DHHS spokesperson responded "Victoria has administered more than 117,000 doses to the priority groups that were allocated to the state as part of the Commonwealth's vaccination program".
When the same question was asked on Wednesday, the response was: "Any expansion of the Commonwealth's vaccination program in Victoria is dependent on an increased pipeline of vaccine supply."
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: