Coronavirus update | Friday 26 March 2021

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2021 2:19pm

I’m here today with Kath Morgan-Wicks to provide an update on the vaccination rollout.

I’m very excited to be here in Launceston this morning to announce the opening of the latest government community COVID 19 vaccination clinic at Mowbray. This clinic will commence at the Tasmanian Turf Club at Mowbray Racecourse at 1pm today and we've already got around 100 people booked in for their first dose of the vaccination this afternoon and around 130 people tomorrow.

The Mowbray clinic is the third of the four government community clinics to open so far this week. The first opened earlier in the week at Kingston on Monday, and then Brighton is opening today and that's going to be at the Brighton Civic Centre, a New Norfolk government clinic will start on Sunday and that's going to be at the RSL.

After these, the government clinic to be set up next will be in the north west of the state and we're currently finalising the appropriate location for this and we'll provide more information next week. These clinics are vaccinating those Tasmanians who are in 1b, so 1b are those Tasmanians that are 70 years and older; remaining healthcare workers not vaccinated in Phase 1a; younger adults with underlying medical conditions; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over; and critical and high risk workers including police, fire, and emergency services and meat processing workers.

As expected we've got lots of interest in getting vaccinated at these clinics which is a great thing. If you're unable to get a booking, please be patient. We know that this cohort is very large we have around 180,000 Tasmanians and it's going to take us several months to be able to get through everybody. If you don't have a booking, importantly, please do not just turn up at one of these sites. Please phone the Public Health Hotline and they will get you booked in. We know the locations of these, so if you know that you are eligible to be able to get vaccinated give the Public Health Hotline a call and they'll be able to get you booked in. We've got around 24,000 appointments already pre-loaded into our booking system ready for people to get vaccinated in the coming weeks and we're going to set up additional clinics as the vaccine supplies continue to flow in from the federal government.

As we have stated many times, this vaccination rollout will be slow and steady and it's pleasing to see that we are starting to ramp up. It's also great to know that we have more GPs joining the rollout over the coming weeks and this is an addition to the three GP-led respiratory clinics. These are at Derwent Park, Launceston and St Helens and that's ensuring that we have got a wide range of options for community members. I’d also like to remind everybody eligible under Phase 1b that if your GP is participating in the rollout they will shortly be contacting you to let you know the timing of your clinic and how to book a vaccination with them. If your GP is not participating, or you don't have a GP, we will be opening a clinic close to you in the coming weeks so please don't be concerned if your GP isn't taking vaccinations; we will ensure that we come to you.

So we remain on track to vaccinate 1b by around July. The vaccine is safe; the vaccine is effective and free and over time it will help us get back to a more normal way of life.

I’d also like to remind Tasmanian businesses, as well as Tasmanians, that we need to make sure that we're registering for Check in TAS ready for the 1st of May. We have seen a great response from industry with over 6,000 venues having already registered and received their QR code and we know that we've still got more to go. Pleasingly over 235 (000) people have downloaded the app onto the phone so this is a great outcome and I encourage all Tasmanians: if you have a smartphone to please download the app and make sure that you've got it there ready to use at venues. If you need to either download the app or register for the QR code, it doesn't take long you can head to the coronavirus website for more information or you can buy the app in one of your stores associated with your phone. Please don't leave it to the last minute. We've got a lot of people and a lot of businesses we still need to register, so please make sure you jump online and get registered.

Finally, I’d like to talk about waste water testing. It's very pleasing yesterday to announce that we have introduced and are introducing wastewater testing here in Tasmania so we're working alongside Tas Water to ensure that we've got sampling from appropriate places around the state and we'll be sending this to other jurisdictions in South Australia to be able to get the testing. We're doing this in parallel as standing up our own capacity here and we have seen over the past year our ability to stand up lab capacity has been extraordinary and this has been something that the team at Public Health have been working on for some time. It's important to note that the vaccination, the Check in TAS, the waste water testing; none of these are silver bullets. We all need to make sure that we're keeping on top of COVID by doing the things that are simple and easy: make sure you're washing your hands regularly, maintain a distance from those around you, and please, if you at all unwell, stay home and get a test.

I'll now get Kath Morgan-Wicks to provide a further update.

Thank you, Minister. I'll just note the Check in TAS downloads for individuals is 235 000, so thank you.

It is hard to believe it but we are nearing at the end of week five of Tasmania’s vaccination rollout and the Tasmanian government to date has delivered 7,728 doses in state clinics including 2,178 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The commonwealth has delivered 4,794 doses in residential aged and disability care and across GP clinics in Tasmania up to 24 March. So this brings the total number of doses administered in Tasmania so far to 16,522 doses and which shows we are going very well against the national total of just over 400,000. At a state level we continue to vaccinate our priority and at-risk (inaudible) to north west state.

I’m pleased to report that the program has continued to rollout smoothly in these regions with another 680 people vaccinated at the Launceston General Hospital this week and 312 at the North West Regional. The government's community clinics are coping well with the initial demand from those eligible in Phase 1b of the rollout. The Kingston clinic saw significant demand delivering 1,137 vaccinations over three days this week. The Launceston and Brighton clinics, which open today, have around 680 people already booked in over the next few days. The New Norfolk clinic starting on Sunday will also be busy with almost 400 people already booked in over the first three days. Now originally Millbrook Rise was the chosen site for the New Norfolk clinic but it became clear with the level of demand that it would not cope, so we have moved the New Norfolk clinic to the New Norfolk RSL on George Street.

Our vaccine supplies continue to grow with over 24,000 doses available to us over the next three weeks and with over 24,000 appointments being loaded into our booking systems that will become available to the Tasmanian public. Now this is a significant increase from our first three weeks of the program which, if you might remember, delivered just over 1,000 doses a week so this means a lot of work for those managing the delivery and the safe storage of vaccine supplies and a steady increase in the number of Tasmanians being vaccinated. And I particularly would like to acknowledge the hard work of the health staff who have been involved in all of the parts of the process to deliver vaccinations to the Tasmanian community.

So remember, please be patient as we are only about to start week two of the Phase 1b rollout which, when completed, will vaccinate around 180,000 Tasmanians.

Now to check if you are eligible for Phase 1b of the rollout, please go to www.health.gov.au and use the eligibility checker. It will ask you a series of easy questions to determine what phase of the rollout you fall into. If you are in Phase 1b it will then take you to a map of Tasmania and show you the location of the nearest GP clinics, GP respiratory clinics and state community clinics and if your GP is participating they'll be contacting you to let you know that when you can get vaccinated with them. If your GP is not participating you can go to a GP respiratory clinic if there is one near you or to a community clinic when it comes to your local area. Instructions on how to book will be listed for each clinic that is participating in the rollout. Now for the time being, if you live near the Mowbray, Kingston, Brighton or New Norfolk clinics, you can book an appointment by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800-671-738. We'll work together to ensure that no matter where you live in Tasmania you will have access to the vaccination.

So thank you and I'll open for questions on vaccinations.

So when will we see the first results from the waste water? So we are working through in terms of the actual implementation of the waste water program. So certainly in the state of Tasmania we have been working through increasing our laboratory capacity and also our Director of Public Health, Dr Mark Veitch, has been closely watching the results and use of waste water testing in other jurisdictions; noting that we haven't had a positive case and very thankful for not having a positive case in Tasmania for a very long time. In other jurisdictions where there have been positive cases detected that has assisted with the stand-up of waste water testing in their laboratories.

So we have this new hub opening up at Mowbray Turf Club; how often will that be open and will that interrupt racing there at all? No, so certainly we're working very closely with the Turf Club not to interrupt general operations. It's a great location for a clinic given that it's very visible and people know how to get there and we're really excited to see it opening today.

Is the vaccine rollout on schedule? So in Tasmania we're performing very well with over now 16 000 doses delivered in Tasmania which really against an Australian total of just over 400 000 shows that we are punching above our weight in Tasmania; and the team health team are very proud and working really hard to deliver it as soon as we can to Tasmanians.

Is it - are you keeping on track of the schedule that you'd outlined for yourself before the vaccine rollout? Yes, certainly our expectations are that we'll complete our priority 1a workers by mid-April and we're looking to complete our Phase 1b around mid-July. Certainly there will always be a little bit of a hang-on or a tale in terms of these Phases but we're certainly working to our plan and targets.

Was the mobile clinic meant to open this week - was it was meant to open on Tuesday or was it always meant to open today? No, we said we'd be opening four community clinics this weekend so we do that by opening our Mowbray clinic today and we've had a really positive response to the bookings. But just want to remind the community that there are bookings available there's some 24 000 appointments that are going to be loaded into our booking system for the next few weeks and certainly if you live near a community clinic the best way to book an appointment is by calling the Public Health Hotline and they can book in for you.

Did you anticipate this level of demand? Certainly it's really positive to see that people are very keen to book in for their vaccinations and we are looking to roll out in addition to our Public Health Hotline method an online booking system that will also assist in coming weeks.

The ABC spoke to Robbie Moore from HACSU who said the rollout - the part the federal government are responsible for - is behind in Tasmania. Have you heard if that's correct and do the state and federal government have much communication about the vaccine rollout? So we are, from a health perspective, talking to the commonwealth government every single day in relation to the coordination of the rollout. With the commonwealth responsible for both the rollout in aged and disability residential care together with our primary care sector so our GPs and certainly we're also as a state. I’m very closely connected to our GP market and talking to them to try and assist and support them to get started so it's a slow and steady rollout for our GPs with some 20 or so at the moment that have been added to the list and we're expecting more GPs to be coming on in coming weeks.

Has there been any adverse reactions to any of the vaccinations so far? So in terms of our adverse event monitoring, there's been some 58 recorded events in Tasmania. The TGA reports those every single Wednesday morning with a weekly report and it's probably the number that we are actually expecting and all in the mild to moderate range.

Were they from the Pfizer vaccine or AstraZeneca? We're reporting against as a total against both vaccines?

Thanks, everybody.

Disability workers are supposed to be receiving the COVID jab as part of the 1a rollout while 1b has already started. Have all disability workers received it? Our disability workforce - we've been engaging with both the employee representatives as well as the federal government to ensure that we've got strong communications to those staff members. We've always expected that Phase 1a and 1b will overlap slightly. Clearly we've started 1b and we know that we've got another month or so to go on 1a so we'll continue working through that and the state government clearly stands ready to make sure that we can vaccinate those Tasmanians who need to get vaccinated.

Why that overlap? Why not finish 1a and then start on 1b? Because we know that we are ramping up the amount of vaccinations that we're receiving. Phase 1a is quite a small cohort. We know who they are because they tend to work in government-type settings. With regards to 1b because the cohort is so big and because we have to stand-up such significant capacity, it makes sense to be able to be ramping them up simultaneously. So we know that 1a is going well and we know that a number of those that have been vaccinated in 1a have already got their second vaccination. So that will be also an important message for Tasmanians when you come and get vaccinated we'll book you in for your second vaccination as well because it is important that you do come back and get your second vaccination.

(End of COVID related matters)