WITH the John Hunter Hospital expanding its Pfizer rollout and a mass vaccination hub on the way, Hunter health experts are urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
"Don't hesitate. Don't wait," University of Newcastle virologist Nathan Bartlett said. "Outbreaks are inevitable. It's that simple. The clock is ticking and the longer we delay, the greater the risk of an outbreak. If we're not vaccinated and we have an outbreak, it will spread more quickly, more people will become ill, and some will die. And that would be heartbreaking when there is a perfectly good vaccine available but people are holding out for another."
McDonald Jones Stadium is being considered as a potential site for Newcastle's mass COVID-19 vaccination hub, although NSW Health is continuing to explore alternatives.
The chairman of the Newcastle Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Association Incorporated, Peter Evans, said the Exhibition Centre at Newcastle Showgrounds could be an apt site for the hub given its size, proximity to public transport and capacity for parking.
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Associate Professor Bartlett said the news that Newcastle would soon be a base for a mass vaccination centre was "an excellent result".
The longer it took for people to be vaccinated, the longer the community remained "vulnerable".
"We need to ramp up the vaccination rollout," he said.
"The longer we delay vaccinating the vast majority of the population, the longer we remain sitting ducks."
He said both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were "incredibly effective". And AstraZeneca was an "incredibly safe vaccine", particularly for over-50s.
People over 50 are now eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, but confusing messaging about the rollout meant many people have been unsure of when, where and how they could get it.
"Be aware of where you are in the rollout. If you are eligible, go and get it done. Protect yourself, protect your community," he said.
It comes as NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian announced on Thursday that the state government is "accelerating" the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine with 25 Pfizer sites across the state - including John Hunter Hospital.
From Monday, members of the general public aged 40 to 49 can can register their interest in receiving the Pfizer vaccine at John Hunter Hospital and Tamworth Hospital via nsw.gov.au.
When availability arises, those who have registered their interest will be contacted and offered appointments, Elizabeth Grist - Hunter New England Health's lead on the rollout - said.
She encouraged anyone eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"The more people that get vaccinated the better placed we are to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19," she said.
"Our focus will be ensuring that priority groups have access to the vaccine first, so please be patient in waiting for your booking.
"Everyone who is eligible will receive their vaccine as quickly as possible."
Those 50 years and over who cannot access the AstraZeneca vaccine through their GP are eligible to book into clinics at Tamworth, Manning, Armidale, Moree or Muswellbrook hospitals.
Other clinics across the health district will start offering Pfizer for eligible groups over the coming month, with bookings soon becoming available at Muswellbrook, Armidale, Moree and Manning hospitals.
- People aged 50-plus can book in to get their AstraZeneca shot at participating clinics using the Vaccine Eligibility Checker.
- People aged 40 to 49 can register their interest in receiving the Pfizer shot at a NSW Health clinic through Service NSW. They will then be contacted when an appointment becomes available.
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