John Hunter Hospital's coronavirus vaccine hub is set to open in the week of March 15, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has confirmed.
The Newcastle hospital was included in five vaccine hub locations announced on Saturday morning that would open progressively between March 15 and April.
But Mr Hazzard later said John Hunter and Wollongong were on track to open during week four of the vaccine program from March 15. Frontline health workers will be the focus of the initial rollout.
The announcement comes after The Herald reported that Hunter doctors, nurses and other high-risk workers had been given the option to take paid time to carpool to Liverpool hospital to get the coronavirus jab.
"Of course we have border staff working on our behalf to check border requirements but also health border requirements," he said. "Those staff will also be our highest priority as we move into Newcastle and Wollongong."
Following the launch of the John Hunter hub, satellite sites will open at 15 regional locations including Wallsend, Taree, Merriwa, Denman and Tamworth. The vaccine will be dispatched from the hubs to the satellite sites.
Mr Hazzard said the satellite sites won't be opened in the first week.
"We're aiming to do that as soon as we can, he said. "As soon as we get confirmation from the Federal Government on the availability of the amount of Pfizer vaccine that we will need to move into these regional towns and cities."
NSW Health acting secretary Susan Pearce said that John Hunter and Wollongong had the capacity to store the Pfizer vaccine at the required -60C to -80C.
Once it is removed from that temperature however there is a five day window to get it out to the regions and into frontline workers' arms.
Mr Hazzard said the AstraZeneca vaccine may be rolled out to the regional cities as well, depending on its availability.
"It may be in due course people in the regions will have the opportunity for the AstraZeneca vaccine as well," he said.
"That will also apply more broadly to the community through GPs and other outlets that the Federal Government are arranging. I can't comment further on that at this stage until the Federal Government gives us the information as necessary."
Ms Pearce said Newcastle health care workers had been travelling into the three open hubs at Royal Prince Alfred, Westmead and Liverpool hospitals to observe the administration of the vaccine and be ready for when it reaches their location.
"The sense of excitement and relief that the vaccine is here has been truly remarkable for everyone," she said.
Hunter New England Health health services functional area coordinator Elizabeth Grist said staff had been working hard over the past few weeks to prepare John Hunter Hospital in anticipation of becoming a hub.
"As part of our preparations we have ensured we have the appropriate facilities, including suitable freezers, to safely store and administer the vaccines," she said.
"In line with the vaccination rollout schedule, the vaccination hub and satellite sites will initially focus on frontline healthcare and border workers.
"We are working with NSW Health to identify the staff who will be considered for vaccination during Phase 1a of the program."
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