THE ROLLOUT of the COVID-19 vaccine to regional areas has been defended by the state health minister, who claimed everything was "progressing as it should" during a visit to Tamworth.
A NSW Health program to vaccinate its own frontline healthcare workers launched in Tamworth more than a week after GPs had already started jabbing eligible locals, meaning the federal Phase 1b was ahead of the state's Phase 1a.
But Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that was perfectly appropriate, when he was questioned during a trip to Tamworth on Tuesday.
"Those are issues that were determined by a risk profile and ... I have complete faith in [chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant] as probably the most outstanding health physician in the country," he said.
"Risk meant that we should be looking at those who are staff in quarantine hotels and starting there ... I think that's good advice and it'sprogressing as it should."
Nurses, doctors and other health professionals at Tamworth hospital started getting vaccinated on Tuesday last week when the 'satelite site' opened.
Mr Hazzard defended the apparent delays in vials of the vaccine making it to country areas.
"Regional Australia is absolutely crucial, but it all has to progress in a public health, epidemiological sense and the advice that comes from our chief medical health officer is what we should rely on," he said.
The minister confirmed the state government would help out the federal government and was looking at creating mass vaccination centres, when a constant supply of doses could be secured.
"The challenge now is to step in and look at how we do that, we're quite confident we will be able to step it up and get the vaccines out and assist the federal government," Mr Hazzard said.
"It may involve - and very likely will involve - alternatives to just the hospitals we have at the present time."
Mr Hazzard could not be drawn on whether a regional centre like Tamworth would be considered, though said he "admired" the local "enthusiasm".
"Let's just take each day as it comes, I've learnt in COVID not to jump the gun, so ... I will just take it quietly at this stage," he said.
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