Rural health group help out regional vaccination rollout

Rural and Indigenous health experts are meeting regularly to ensure rural communities continue to be central to the phased rollout of Australia's COVID-19 vaccine.

The Remote Vaccine Working Group will provide advice to the Federal Government and identify issues as the rollout continues towards Phase 1B and beyond.

Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton said the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to every corner of the country was complex and that was why the Federal Government had a plan and was listening to expert advice from rural health stakeholders.

"COVID-19 case numbers in rural and remote areas have been low, but the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine into regional, rural and remote communities is a vital part of the Government's vaccine strategy to ensure everyone in Australia is protected," Minister Coulton said.

"The TGA has found the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to be safe, they are free, and you'll be able to receive your vaccination near where you live."

The vaccine demonstrates it will stop people becoming very sick - keeping them off ventilators and out of hospital.

Minister Coulton said the Working Group - made up of the Commonwealth Department of Health, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and state and territory agencies - draws on expertise from health representatives. Many of the health experts have also participated in Rural and Remote Health Roundtable chaired by the Minister since the start of the pandemic.

"The leadership and expertise of these professionals provide important voices to the Working Group to ensure the rollout is done in genuine partnership and enables all rural Australians to be vaccinated close to where they live."

Minister Coulton said the rural health workforce and representative bodies had been integral in managing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We commend the efforts of our doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and allied health workers in rural and remote areas," Minister Coulton said.

"We genuinely appreciate the ongoing leadership of the rural health sector, and we are in this enviable position because of the care and advice this sector has provided us over the past year."

The Australian Government is working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services, general practices, state and territory governments, Primary Health Networks, GP-led respiratory clinics and community pharmacies to ensure that Australians living in regional, rural and remote locations have access to a COVID-19 vaccination if they so choose.