THE first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Portland on Monday in an historic day for the south-west.
Portland District Health Associate Director of Nursing Deb Adams was the first in the region to get the Pfizer vaccine, followed by her father-in-law Ted Adams, who is 93.
"We've had our Pfizer vaccine - the first lot for rural Victoria," she said. "It's an honour.
"I wanted to be immunised, I've done a lot of reading and a lot of research into the immunisation program. I know they've done a lot of research and work leading up to it.
"I think it's a privilege to be the first, especially with my father-in-law.
"Because I work in all areas of the hospital from emergency to aged care and acute, I feel that I can't pass it on to anybody.
"He's in aged care, he can't look after himself and he can't pass it on to anybody and he can't get it."
Mr Adams is a resident at Portland District Health's Harbourside Lodge and is one 20 residents to be vaccinated over the two days in Portland.
Ms Adams urged anyone hesitant about receiving the vaccine to research the program from a reputable source.
"We don't have COVID at the present minute but we have had COVID and it has some very serious side effects to it," she said.
"I think it's important to roll it out into regional Victoria, especially here in we've got an international port, we get a lot of international travelers and more recently people from Melbourne traveling to Portland.
"We've seen what COVID can do and you don't want it.
"Read about the vaccine, don't go by negative comments on Facebook.
"Look it up, read about it, and make an informed decision."
A vaccination outreach team from the Barwon South West Public Health Unit is in Portland working in partnership with Portland District Health to vaccinate healthcare workers, public sector aged care residents and port workers, in line with the phase 1a priority rollout.
An estimated 150 to 200 people, comprising port workers, public aged care residents and frontline health workers, are expected to be vaccinated over the next two days.
Barwon Health Clinical Pharmacist Alicia Neels oversaw the administration of the first vaccine.
"It's monumental to be involved in such a big program like this," Ms Neels said.
"Pharmacists are integral in rolling this out to regional and rural areas, ensuing that cold chain management is continued and being able to dose in those townships.
"We have to make sure everybody has that same accessibility to the vaccine."
PDH CEO Christine Giles said Portland was one of the first places in regional Australia to start the vaccination program.
"12 months ago we were sitting here in March looking at the face of a very virulent virus spreading through the world," Ms Giles said.
"COVID arrived here in Portland and unfortunately someone passed away.
"To think the same time 12 months later we're rolling our the first Pfizer in Portland is quite unbelievable.
"While last year signalled the arrival of something very dramatic this is equally as dramatic as a lot of science and preparation has gone into it.
"Last year we were thinking 'will someone I know be touched by COVID?' Now we've come full circle and there's a safeguard against it for the community's most vulnerable and for the general public.
"There's doses for everyone, you don't have to be the first but it's important everyone is offered it in 2021."
The former walk-in fever clinic at PDH has been converted to a vaccination clinic. A dedicated area has been established for storing and mixing the injections, under the supervision of the specialist outreach team, before they are delivered to the vaccination area.
The PDH drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic remains available if needed and Ms Giles said surveillance testing of port workers was continuing despite there being no active cases in the region.
"Our staff have been doing a lot of work in the background to get ready and we're looking forward to playing our part in delivering this vaccine to our local community," Ms Giles said.
PDH Urgent Care Centre and COVID testing staff are the first health workers to receive the local vaccination under a phased rollout to ensure there is no disruption to health services in case of adverse reactions.
PDH immunisation nursing staff have received specialised training to be part of the delivery program.
About 3000 people in the Barwon South West region will be vaccinated as part of the immunisation program's first phase.
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.