When the COVID vaccine reaches rural and regional Australia, likely the AstraZeneca variant due to its simpler transportation and storage needs, it will be easy to access through local GP clinics, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) said.
RDAA President Dr John Hall said that Phase 1A of the rollout would be the Pfizer vaccine (granted provisional approval on Monday for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration), followed by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"The initial rollout of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered via hubs in strategic locations, and rollout teams will ensure that it is available to vulnerable people that are eligible in the very first phase in smaller rural and remote communities.
"This will then be followed by a Phase 1B rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored in the fridge alongside the other vaccines administered by GPs, increasing the availability and decreasing any wait times for rural Australians.
"If people are unsure of their eligibility to receive the vaccine in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, they can check the Government website or phone their GP. It is important that the people who are most at risk from the virus are prioritised to receive the vaccine."
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Dr Sarah Chalmers said that the vaccination program will take advantage of the existing infrastructure established for the GP-led respiratory clinics that were set up for testing, and these will be prioritised for the vaccine rollout.
"Initial priority will be given to the established Respiratory Clinics to administer the vaccine, but this will be quickly followed by GP practices around the country," Dr Chalmers said.
"COVID-19 vaccines will be made available for free for everyone living in Australia, including all Australian citizens, permanent residents, and most visa-holders, including those not Medicare eligible, and so all patients will be bulk billed.
"Even though we have not had a lot of cases of COVID in rural communities, it is important that people get themselves, and their families, vaccinated.
"Different vaccines work in different ways, and it's important to know that this vaccine will prevent you from getting seriously ill from the virus, but not from contracting it.
"Despite being vaccinated you may still carry and shed the virus, so it is extremely important that you protect your families by ensuring that everyone receives it."