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Tomorrow marks one year since COVID-19 vaccinations commenced at Albury Wodonga Health (AWH).

On 10 March 2021, trained health professionals started administering vaccines to priority groups, which included frontline healthcare workers, as part of Australia’s national roll-out strategy.

Executive Director of Public Health, Dr Lucie Shanahan, explained that staff from the Emergency Department, COVID-19 testing clinic and Intensive Care Unit were some of the first to receive the vaccine, following weeks of preparation by the Local Public Health Unit (PHU).

“At the beginning, we were administering around 30 vaccinations a day from a temporary Hub located at the Albury Base Hospital, as our official Vaccination Hub in Wodonga was still under construction.”

“A few weeks later on March 22, we moved to the Wodonga-based Hub which has 36 vaccination booths and meant we could further expand our vaccination capacity.”

“In total, the Wodonga Hub has now administered 93,200 vaccinations since commencing.”

As the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout expanded, the PHU continued to provide this invaluable service to communities in the five Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Wodonga, Wangaratta, Alpine, Towong and Indigo.

“Across this catchment our network has administered another 62,000 vaccinations, taking the total to over 155,000 vaccinations. This includes 5,600 outreach vaccinations, an outstanding effort by both the community and staff.

“Reggie, our mobile vaccination bus, along with our outreach clinics which have been at halls and community centres, along with outdoor venues, have been a huge success. We continue to look at how our outreach can ensure it is providing access and equity in service delivery.”

In partnership with GPs and pharmacies across the region, by late November 2021 all LGAs within the PHU’s catchment area had reached the 95% double vaccination mark.

Dr Shanahan reflected on the many changes which had taken place during the past 12 months, including the expansion to five current vaccines of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax and Paediatric Pfizer.

“When we started we were targeting the high-risk members of the community, whereas we are now vaccinating anyone over the age of five,” she said.

“Over this time our staff have faced significant demand, with the peak for us coming in August 2021, when we delivered more than 14,600 vaccinations at the Wodonga Vaccination Hub over the month, a massive effort by everyone.

“Across the PHU catchment, we are performing well compared with State averages.”

Despite the current low case numbers of COVID-19, Dr Shanahan again urged people to come forward to be vaccinated.

“There has been a slower than expected uptake of people coming for their third dose, as well as throughout the 5-11 age group,” she said.

“Vaccination remains our best line of defence against COVID-19 and if you are still to have any dose, please come forward, particularly as the weather begins to cool down.”

Dr Shanahan said AWH testing services in Wodonga also marked a two-year milestone this week, with more than 82,000 people receiving PCR tests since operations commenced in 2020.

As well, the PHU has handed out nearly 50,000 Rapid Antigen Tests since mid-January of this year.

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