From the city of Orange to the Outback town of Lightning Ridge, the vaccine outreach team, comprising NSW Health and ADF members, has administered 20,000 vaccines since it began operations in late July.
CAPTION: Chief Petty Officer Tina Elliot assists a member of the Orange community before receiving their vaccination at the city’s vaccination hub. Story by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath. Photo by Corporal Dustin Anderson.
The travelling teams have operated from government buildings, bowling clubs, community halls and showgrounds.
NSW Commander of Operation COVID-19 Assist Colonel Warwick Young said it was encouraging to see the turnout in regional and remote western NSW.
“People are turning up early to be first in line for a vaccination. It shows the message is getting through – get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family and the community,” Colonel Young said.
“Vaccination outreach team members have fanned out around western NSW, and I would like to thank all the communities that they have visited.”
The team includes nurses, paramedics and doctors, such as Lieutenant Jarrad Blackburn, a medical officer with the Submarine and Underwater Medicine Unit at HMAS Penguin in Sydney, who administered jabs at pop-up clinics in and around Orange.
He said the public response had been touching.
“We have had lots of baking and coffees brought our way as a sign of appreciation; it really warms the heart,” Lieutenant Blackburn said.
He said leaving family and loved ones was hard but he was proud to help the community.
“You see people lining up five, six hours for a vaccine. It makes it all worth it,” he said.
“We will go into rural communities of a thousand and we have 600 people lining up on day one.”
Minister for Defence Personnel Andrew Gee, whose electorate office of Calare is in Orange, thanked ADF members for their support.
“Having the ADF in our community and in our whole region has made all the difference in the world,” Mr Gee said.
“It has really given everyone confidence that they can get through COVID, that the government and all its resources are supporting them.
“It won’t be long before we put this whole COVID nightmare in the rear-view mirror. If you look at the vaccination rates in our Local Government Areas, they have skyrocketed since the ADF has been about. It has made a real difference to our community.”