Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner received the AstraZeneca vaccine this morning

A health clinic staff member prepares vaccinations for Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner received the AstraZeneca vaccine this morning, as Phase 1b kicked off and his government worked to combat ‘concerning’ anti-vax messaging.

Key points:

  • There are 13 clinics administering AstraZeneca within the first week of Phase 1b
  • NT Health has administered 5,083 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far
  • The NT’s Chief Health Officer says confusing messaging is being spread by non-health sources

Mr Gunner said he wanted to be first up to receive AstraZeneca, to bolster public confidence in the coronavirus vaccine.

“I want to give the public every confidence in AstraZeneca, in its clinical safety,” he said.

“The vaccine is free, it is safe and it is effective.

Phase 1b also marks the start of the vaccination program for Aboriginal adults.

The Australian government changed the parameters of the Phase 1b rollout earlier this month to include more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote residents.

The changes mean that vaccination teams heading to remote Aboriginal communities can immunise all adults over the age of 18 who want the vaccine, rather than just people over 55 or those who met the previous criteria.

Other people eligible under phase 1b include people over the age of 70, adults with specified underlying medical conditions, any remaining frontline health care workers who were not a part of Phase 1a, critical and high-risk workers such as police, fire, emergency services and meat processing workers.

A close-up shot of a box holding the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A close-up shot of a box holding the AstraZeneca vaccine.The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be delivered as a part of the Phase 1b rollout.(ABC News: Michael Donnelly


Mr Gunner said he had become concerned over some recent messaging from online anti-vaccination groups.

“There are some Territorians out there, some Australians out there, who have had a history of being vaccinated and want to be sure that this vaccination is safe,” he said.

“We can trust our doctors, we can trust the research they do, we can trust their clinical advice.

Mr Gunner acknowledged there were also concerns about AstraZeneca in remote Aboriginal communities but that the government would be ramping up its messaging.

“I think we’ve done a very good effort on keeping people as informed as possible, there are some questions around at the moment, around the world, when it comes to vaccinations,” he said.

“I’m not surprised that people in remote areas have questions but we are more than happy to answer them.”

Information ‘not from health sources’

Chief Minister Michael Gunner sits in a health clinic, as two staff give him the AstraZeneca vaccination.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner sits in a health clinic, as two staff give him the AstraZeneca vaccination.Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he wanted to show confidence in the vaccine.(ABC News: Michael Donnelly


NT Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie also received the AstraZeneca vaccine and urged people to register to receive the jab.

“It is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to protection from serious disease,” he said.

“I’ve seen deafness and severe brain damage from measles.”

Dr Heggie said they were aiming to have all eligible people in the Northern Territory vaccinated by the end of the year and that the NT and federal governments would work to combat misinformation.

“It’s not so much people who are against vaccination but there may be a view, and this is not just about Aboriginal people, that this virus is not real or indeed that it is only certain groups of people in the population that get this virus.”

Dr Hugh Heggie stands for a portrait.

Dr Hugh Heggie stands for a portrait.Dr Hugh Heggie says he has seen people with life-long disabilities from diseases that are now vaccine-preventable.(ABC News: Michael Donnelly


Communities could be waiting months for vaccine

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said vaccinations would begin this week in remote communities, with 13 Aboriginal community health organisations working to provide the jab.

“The challenge in the Northern Territory is our large geographical area,” she said.

“When we go into remote communities we will make sure that we vaccinate whoever might be available, we won’t be strict in the categories because we need to roll this out right across the Territory.”

Vaccine clinics will also be established in Tennant Creek, Katherine and Gove.

The shoulder of a volunteer is seen as they receive an injection by a person wearing gloves.

The shoulder of a volunteer is seen as they receive an injection by a person wearing gloves.Despite concerns, medical clinics are booked out for days in advance for vaccine doses.(AP: Siphiwe Sibeko


Ms Fyles said there was no rush to rollout Phase 1b as there has been no community transmission in the Territory.

“It could be months before a community sees the vaccine, so we do need to be timely in the information,” she said.

Arafura medical clinic practice manager Patricia Crompton said, despite some concerns, they had been inundated by the demand for the vaccine and had hundreds of doses booked in advance.

“We will be doing 550 doses per week,” she said.

There are 10 general practitioner clinics and three respiratory clinics administering the vaccine within this first week of Phase 1b.

People eligible for Phase1b can call approved clinics or their Aboriginal health clinics to book an appointment.

So far NT Health has administered 5083 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 467 Territorians who have received a second dose and are now fully vaccinated.

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