The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in the Northern Territory, with initial jabs expected within 24 hours.
Two boxes of about 1000 doses of Pfizer vaccine landed at Darwin Airport via Qantas from Sydney about 11.30am on Sunday.
Health workers will start administering the vaccine to the NT’s most vulnerable people and at-risk frontline virus workers on Monday morning, Chief Minister Michael Gunner says.
About 700 people are expected to receive their first dose by the end of the week as part of Phase 1A of the rollout.
This includes some medical staff at Royal Darwin Hospital and workers at the Howard Springs COVID-19 quarantine facility.
Border control workers – including police and airport personnel – and disability and aged care residents and staff will also be prioritised during the first stage.
“The first doses for Alice Springs will leave Darwin on a care flight tomorrow. Vaccinations for frontline workers in health will begin on Wednesday,” Mr Gunner said on Sunday.
The Commonwealth’s next vaccine allocation should allow NT Health to deliver the second dose to the first recipients about 21 days after the first and begin the second phase of the rollout.
The next phase is expected to start mid-to-late March and include health workers not initially vaccinated.
Others to be vaccinated include police, firefighters, emergency workers, defence personnel.
Territorians aged 70 and over, Indigenous Australians over 55 and young adults with medical conditions or a disability will also receive the jab.
Most Territorians are expected to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca in the second half of the year.
Its less-extreme refrigeration requirements are also likely to see it used in remote communities.
Currently, only Darwin and Alice Springs have facilities to store the Pfizer vaccine at the required minus 70C.
“We will be working with the commonwealth government and the Aboriginal health sector about how we look after remote communities and we’ll have a closer partnership with the Commonwealth than other states will,” Mr Gunner said.
“(But) we have to go through a few logistical issues as we get our plans ready for the remote communities.”
Mr Gunner said the best way to keep remote Indigenous communities safe was to vaccinate workers interacting with travellers isolating at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
People returning from overseas are the most likely to bring the virus into the NT, he said.
Earlier, Mr Gunner left self-isolation after testing negative for COVID-19.
He became unwell on Friday morning at the Bombing of Darwin Day commemoration, which he attended with about 1500 guests in hot and humid conditions.
On health advice, he was tested and went into isolation at home while awaiting the results, which arrived late Saturday.
One new virus case was recorded in the NT overnight, a 43-year-old man in quarantine after arriving from New Delhi.
More than 4000 international travellers have undertaken quarantine at Howard Springs since repatriation flights started in October.
A total of 66 positive cases have been reported from overseas arrivals.
The NT has recorded 105 COVID-19 cases, all in quarantine facilities.
Australian Associated Press