The first southern Covid-19 vaccination centre has opened.
In just a week, from planning to the start of business, Southern District Health Board and public health staff have set up a base in the Meridian Mall in central Dunedin at which several thousand people will receive vaccinations against the pandemic disease.
The SDHB has leased the former H&J Smiths department store for a year, and today six vaccinators and an administration team began injecting the first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech to frontline health workers.
A similar centre will also be set up in Invercargill, and Southern Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Incident Controller, Hamish Brown, said the final details were being sorted out on a lease space there.
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Logistics were also still being worked out as to how to vaccinate southerners in more remote locations.
Brown said those people should not have to wait until last to receive their vaccinations, although more far-flung areas did pose a challenge.
The vaccine must be stored at an ultra low temperature, and southern stocks are being held in a special freezer in Christchurch.
Brown said the vaccine was being shipped to an SDHB facility, before being taken to the new clinic to be dispensed.
SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming praised staff who had worked on setting up the clinic, and said it was a remarkable effort that it had been set up in such a short time.
"Having faced the challenge and disruptions caused by Covid-19 over the past year, it is a great relief to now have the opportunity to be rolling out a vaccine to protect our population."
Around 575,000 vaccinations are required for everyone aged 16+ in the south to receive the required two doses, three weeks apart.