Kangaroo Island left high and dry by vaccine rollout

ASTRA VACCINE: The AstraZeneca vaccine in the refrigerated cabinet when it first arrived in Murray Bridge in South Australia. Photo: Dani Brown
ASTRA VACCINE: The AstraZeneca vaccine in the refrigerated cabinet when it first arrived in Murray Bridge in South Australia. Photo: Dani Brown

Kangaroo Island residents have no access to COVID-19 vaccinations close to home despite months of liaison with federal and state authorities by Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

The vaccine rollout has begun on the Island with aged care residents and frontline health and emergency workers receiving their first AstraZeneca dose earlier this month.

But there has been no specific time frame given by state and regional health authorities as to when the next phase of the rollout will begin on the Island.

The Islander understands the federal government could be contracting out the vaccination program on the Island to a third party.

We have previously reported vaccines for the wider KI population was set to begin in coming weeks.

KI tourism operators meanwhile are frustrated the slow national rollout of the vaccine and the impact that's having on reopening international borders.

PROTECTED: Kangaroo Island Health Service associate nurse unit manager Helen Hall gives the COVID-19 vaccine to Bob Patterson. Photo supplied

PROTECTED: Kangaroo Island Health Service associate nurse unit manager Helen Hall gives the COVID-19 vaccine to Bob Patterson. Photo supplied

Ms Sharkie said she first raised the lack of access to vaccines for KI residents with the state health minister Stephen Wade back in January, and then again in March.

That month she also wrote to the federal health minister Greg Hunt because she said Yorketown on the Yorke Peninsula was listed as the closest vaccination clinic for Islanders on the federal government's vaccination information website.

"Since then I've heard there was a shambolic scramble to vaccinate frontline health workers on the Island in early May," she said.

"But nothing has been done to roll out the vaccine program to eligible residents, placing the onus on people to spend hundreds of dollar to fly or take their car on the ferry to the mainland to find somewhere to get vaccinated.

"Despite letters, emails, and phone calls, just this week I have received correspondence from the state health minister Stephen Wade MLC advising that SA Health is still developing a 'site-specific strategy for the rollout of the vaccine on Kangaroo Island'.

"I've put in further inquiries to find out exactly what a 'site-specific strategy' may entail and if there is a time frame for the people of Kangaroo Island but I haven't received a response to date.

"I appreciate that rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations across the state is a complex and challenging logistical exercise but it's been five months since I first raised this issue and now I find out that SA Health is still 'developing' a plan. It's not good enough.

"Just under 5000 people live on the Island and more than a thousand of them are aged 65 years and over.

"A number by virtue of age, disability, or underlying health conditions are eligible for priority, free vaccination under phases 1a and 1b of the vaccine rollout.

"The federal minister for health, Greg Hunt MP, acknowledges in his correspondence to my office that Kangaroo Island is identified as a 'very remote community' and delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations need to be progressed in this locality.

"I call on the state government to speed up whatever 'site-specific strategy' they have for the Island and to give Islanders a time frame and more clarity about the vaccine rollout."

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