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First shots: Frontline staff jabs start Monday, 10,000 per week to follow

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The first 100 Queenslanders to receive the Pfizer vaccine are scheduled to get their shot on Monday, strengthening the state’s defence against COVID-19.

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Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 overnight, but the arrival of the vaccine will deliver what Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young today described as “another level of risk mitigation”.

A freezer will be delivered to Gold Coast University Hospital today in preparation for the long-awaited tray of Pfizer vials. Queensland is due to receive 10,000 doses per week for the next three weeks as the program ramps up. Most people over 18 will have the opportunity to be vaccinated before the end of October.

First to receive the vaccine from Queensland Health will be some 27,000 border, hotel quarantine and health workers who may come into contact with potentially infected people. Around the same time, the Federal Government will provide vaccines to aged care and disability services workers and residents.

Young said it was a significant milestone for Queensland to move to the vaccination stage of the pandemic but cautioned that public health measures might still be needed to deal with any positive cases.

Victoria will lift its lockdown tonight but Queensland’s travel restrictions will remain in place until February 27.

Young was loath to say when vaccination would provide enough protection to no longer require such a drastic response to concerning cases.

“We’ve just got to wait and see, remember one case can lead to changes,” Young said.

“One case can still happen so the plan across the country is to try and get as many people vaccinated as possible by the end of October.”

While vaccination will strengthen the hotel quarantine regime, Victoria and Queensland have proposed alternative accommodation models that would effectively require risk-rating of returning travellers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called on the Commonwealth to allow travellers to disembark at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport, where the Wagner family has proposed a self-funded quarantine facility.

While Queensland currently has 2,378 people in hotel quarantine, and around 1000 staff and officers supporting them, the Toowoomba proposal would only house 1,000 returned travellers and 300 staff (living and working on site for two weeks, then off for two weeks).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously described Toowoomba as an “overflow” option, or supplementary to the hotel quarantine regime he wants to keep in place but Palaszczuk fears is not safe enough. It would also require a new staffing model.

Palaszczuk today revealed that, under the proposal, any travellers who tested positive at the Toowoomba facility would be transported by ambulance to a Brisbane hospital.

That removes the threat to local health services – a similar proposal for Gladstone was abandoned after a community backlash – but would add to the need for risk-rating and logistical plans.

Palaszczuk said it was a “good, sound proposal” and again criticised the Morrison government for not giving it further consideration.

She said vaccines for frontline workers would help “but, you know, this is a high-risk area not just for our state but Australia as well”.

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