A number of Aboriginal medical services have started delivering doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine this week with prominent Indigenous leaders and politicians some of the first to receive the jab.

The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, Shadow Minister Linda Burney and Professor Tom Calma received their first dose on Wednesday along with local Ngunnawal elders at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra.

Speaking with reporters on the day, Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney urged all First Australians to get their jab when it becomes available to them.

“I join with Ken Wyatt, the Ngunnawal people and everyone in saying, please get the vaccine. It is important to protect our communities, to protect our families and to protect our culture.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 55 years and over are now eligible to receive the vaccine this week as part of Phase 1B of the national roll-out.

Other priority groups in Phase 1B include:

  • elderly adults aged 80 years and over
  • elderly adults aged 70 years and over
  • health care workers not vaccinated in Phase 1A
  • adults with a specified medical condition
  • adults with a severe disability who have a specified underlying medical condition
  • critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

The commencement of Phase 1B comes as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approves the first four batches of the Australian made, CSL produced AstraZeneca vaccine.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd told reporters on Wednesday: “The TGA process, looking at the batch approval, ensures that locally manufactured vaccine has exactly the same composition and performance as the overseas manufactured vaccine with the exact same quality and of course, is free of any contaminants.”

“This vaccine will now be rolling out to general practices, general practice respiratory clinics and to Aboriginal health services right across Australia boosting the number of vaccines that we have available each week.”