It was “all hands on deck” today with the first major COVID-19 vaccination hub in the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) opening at John Hunter Hospital.
The centre is one of five major hubs across the state, which will also begin the dispatch of vaccine to 15 satellite sites in rural regions throughout the district in the coming weeks.
HNELHD chief executive Michael DiRienzo said the response to the hub had been overwhelmingly positive on Monday 15 March.
“Frontline healthcare workers received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine today, thanks to the outstanding efforts of our staff who worked quickly to make this hub a possibility,” he explained.
“Our priority has always been to ensure our staff have access to vaccination facilities as close to their homes as possible.
“We’re extremely excited to see this process start [today].
“We are humbled to be playing such a significant role in Australia’s vaccine rollout, and incredibly grateful that we can now offer our hard-working frontline staff protection against the virus.”
John Hunter Hospital COVID-19 Ward nurse unit manager Alexandra Mexon was excited to be the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“While working in the COVID-19 ward I have witnessed the devastating effects of the virus first-hand,” she said.
“This is why I have chosen to have the vaccine today.
“The jab was quick and I barely felt a thing.
“The whole process was simple and while it is not mandatory, I would encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they are able.
“I definitely feel that extra sense of security in caring for our patients now that I’ve been vaccinated.”
The vaccination hub and satellite sites will initially focus on frontline healthcare workers as part of Phase 1A of the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, and will be followed by a wider rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine, including to the general public through the GP network.
NSW is also working closely with its federal counterparts to implement a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination program.
Meanwhile, Newcastle residents can claim two free rideshare trips (up to A$15 each) to and from local hubs from today, too.
Those able to immediately benefit from the service include frontline healthcare, aged care and disability workers, along with border and quarantine workers and everyone else eligible through Phase 1a.
DiDi Vaccinate has already rolled out successfully across a number of major cities within Australia.
But, with the opening of John Hunter Hospital as a vaccination hub, the service will now come into effect to support those travelling to and from appointments.
DiDi recently reached out to Australian federal and state ministers, requesting priority vaccination for rideshare and delivery drivers.
“We are thrilled to play our part in helping Australia’s vaccination efforts, starting with those prioritised in Phase 1a,” DiDi Australia and New Zealand general manager Lyn Ma said.
“Last year we implemented DiDi Hero, an initiative that provided discounted and sanitised rides for frontline healthcare workers across Australia,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
“DiDi Vaccinate is an evolution of DiDi Hero and, importantly, an initiative by which we can continue to support those valiantly working at the coronavirus frontline.
“Frontline workers have truly gone the extra mile for Australia over the past year; it’s our turn to give back and provide a few extra miles in return.”