10 May 2023

Cape York vaccination dates pushed forward

| Matt Nicholls
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Weipa and Cooktown’s dates will remain the same, however, there have been major changes to the smaller communities in a bid to have the program done by early November.

Coen, for example, will get access to Pfizer more than two months ahead of the original schedule, but will have just two days to get vaccinated in the town, rather than five.

Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Aurukun, Pormpuraaw, Wujal Wujal and Hope Vale are all big winners in the changed rollout.

But like Coen, that means fewer days on the ground in some communities.

Lockhart River residents will have three days to get their first jab, while Napranum will have three days instead of five.

Mapoon residents will have two days instead of five, although locals can make an appointment at Weipa if they are unable to attend on those dates.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service executive director of medical services Tony Brown said vaccinations on Cape York would now start from August 9.

“We’ve had multiple vaccination teams working in the Torres Strait which has allowed us to move a little ahead of our previous planned schedule,” Dr Brown said.

“As such, our teams will be able to move to Cape York a little earlier.

“At Weipa, we will be set up in the Storm Surge Shelter for three weeks, allowing ample opportunity for everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated.

“As in the Torres Strait and the Northern Peninsula area, we will be offering Pfizer vaccination to anyone and everyone in each community aged 16 years and over.

“We know Cape York residents are very keen to be vaccinated. But I am sure they will understand we had to start in the Torres Strait first due to the growing risk posed by COVID-19 spreading from Papua New Guinea.

“We’ve also had to overcome significant challenges to deliver vaccines to these remote island communities, with multiple trips required, often by air.

“We have to either send them by helicopter or by fixed-wing and it is quite a logistical exercise to do communications, let alone deliver the vaccine, maintain vaccine cold chains and accommodate staff for up to a week at a time in areas within very limited accommodation.”

Dr Brown said to achieve full vaccination status, the health service needed people to turn up to clinics and be vaccinated.

“Our vaccination rates can only be as good as the number of people who turn up,” he said.

“I know there is some vaccine hesitancy in all of our communities, but the reality is that unless as many of us as possible are fully vaccinated, we will never be able to get back to a near-normal life.

“The latest scientific research indicates that we need to reach 85 per cent vaccine coverage right across Australia to have any hope of achieving a level of herd immunity.

“We are a long way off that both here in the Torres and Cape region and right across Australia. We must do our bit to boost vaccination rates.”

Bookings are now being taken at some clinics across the region for the Pfizer jabs.

First dose Pfizer

Coen: August 9 & 10
Kowanyama: August 9-13
Lockhart River: August 11-13
Aurukun: August 16-20
Pormpuraaw: August 16-20
Weipa: August 16-September 3
Napranum: August 30-September 1
Mapoon: September 2 & 3
Cooktown: September 27-October 8
Laura & Lakeland: October 4-8
Hope Vale: October 11-15
Wujal Wujal: October 11-15

Second doze Pfizer
Coen: September 6 & 7
Kowanyama: September 6-10
Weipa: September 6-24
Lockhart River: September 8-10
Aurukun: September 13-17
Pormpuraaw: September 13-17
Napranum: September 20-22
Mapoon: September 23 & 24
Cooktown: October 18-29
Laura & Lakeland: October 25-29
Hope Vale: November 1-5
Wujal Wujal: November 1-5

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