Steven McLaughlin, Senior Medical Officer at Emerald Hospital, was one of the first frontline and healthcare workers in Emerald to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on March 24, 2021, as part of phase 1A.
Steven McLaughlin, Senior Medical Officer at Emerald Hospital, was one of the first frontline and healthcare workers in Emerald to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on March 24, 2021, as part of phase 1A.

First COVID vaccine reaches Central Highlands

The first COVID-19 vaccinations have reached the Central Highlands, with Emerald’s frontline workers the first in line to get them on Wednesday.

Steve McLaughlin, Senior Medical Officer at Emerald Hospital, was one of the first to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Emerald.

“It’s a privileged position to be able to receive the vaccine first, but that means we can safely treat patients and it provides us with that extra assurance,” he said.

“Being a mining town we have a lot of people that travel in and out and the quicker that everyone can get vaccinated the quicker we can return to living life like it was before.

“I think it’s fantastic for the community. It’s very exciting that its finally started.”

The first of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been assigned to those in the Phase 1A category, which are workers on the front line including hospital staff in the public health unit, emergency departments, intensive care units and high dependency units.

Steven McLaughlin was one of the first frontline and healthcare workers in Emerald to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Steven McLaughlin was one of the first frontline and healthcare workers in Emerald to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Acting General Manager and Director of Nursing, Emerald and Central Highlands, Claire Letts, said the three-day clinic would provide hospital and emergency service staff with the first of two vaccinations, to be delivered 10 to 12 weeks apart.

“We’re really pleased to have the COVID vaccination clinic here for our staff,” she said.

About 60 people are expected to be vaccinated as part of the program in Emerald, before moving to smaller, regional services.

Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service executive director Steve Williamson said it was a historical day for Central Highlands communities.

“This is a really important day, delivering the COVID vaccination for the first time here in Emerald and the Central Highlands.

“Who would’ve thought we’d be doing that 12 months after the first confirmed COVID case.

“It’s amazing and it’s fantastic to see so many staff coming forward to be part of that vaccination program.”

The Central Queensland program started in Rockhampton before moving to Gladstone and Yeppoon.

The vaccine will be rolled out at Biloela on Thursday.

Mr Williamson said the Emerald Hospital clinic would only vaccinate healthcare workers, while General Practices (GP) would service the general public.

Emerald frontline and healthcare workers received the first COVID-19 vaccination at the Emerald Ambulance Training Centre beside the hospital.
Emerald frontline and healthcare workers received the first COVID-19 vaccination at the Emerald Ambulance Training Centre beside the hospital.

The Emerald Medical Group was one of about 40 GPs across the region to volunteer to be part of the vaccination program and has already started providing the vaccine to Emerald locals who fall under the Phase 1A category.

“Everyone over 18 years old can expect to have the opportunity to get the vaccination between now and the end of October, that’s our target,” Mr Williamson said.

“Across all of Central Queensland, that’s about 165,000 people.

“It is a huge task and were certainly determined that were delivering that across the region.”

Paul Bell, CQHHS Chairman and Chair of Central Highlands Health, said it was absolutely amazing to have two fully operational facilities delivering the vaccines in Emerald.

CQHHS Chairman Paul Bell and executive director Steve Williamson.
CQHHS Chairman Paul Bell and executive director Steve Williamson.

“This is a great thing for the Central Highlands,” he said.

“The challenge now, over the next six months, is to be respectful of the people that need to go first – front line workers and people with health conditions, and we then need to be respectful of our second and third groups.

“We aren’t all going to get done immediately. We need to be respectful and follow the process.”

Mr Williamson was thankful to all staff across Central Queensland for their efforts in delivering the first vaccinations.

“I just want to acknowledge the huge amount of work of everybody, front line clinical staff, support teams.

“The organisation involved in delivering a vaccination program of this scale is incredible, and we’re so fortunate that we have fantastic staff who are doing an awesome job.”

Click here to check which phase you fall under.

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