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Govt counters anti-vaxxer claims as rollout begins

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The State Government has countered anti-vaxxer claims by reminding South Australians that taking COVID-19 vaccinations is not mandatory, as it prepares to roll out the first doses.

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The precious cargo of 4000 Pfizer doses arrived at Adelaide Airport on Sunday afternoon before being placed in cold storage at Royal Adelaide Hospital.

It comes after several hundred protesters gathered on the steps of SA Parliament on Saturday in opposition to “enforced COVID-19 vaccinations”.

Protesters marched from Victoria Square to Parliament House as part of a coordinated series of protests across the nation.

People held signs claiming that COVID-19 is a global conspiracy and warning against mandatory vaccines.

South Australia’s vaccine program is not mandatory, and the federal government has repeatedly said it will not force people to get vaccinated.

Health Minister Stephen Wade urged South Australians not to listen to demonstrators, reinforcing the message that the Pfizer jab is crucial to moving past coronavirus.

“The propaganda being put out by the anti-vaxxers yesterday that this vaccine is mandatory is just not true,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“This is an opportunity that the Commonwealth and the state are working together to deliver to South Australians because we believe that a safe and effective vaccine is the doorway out of this pandemic.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Mike Cusack noted 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered worldwide.

“That number is increasing very quickly,” he said.

“Of that, we’ve seen very little in the way of adverse effects and the serious allergy numbers are very, very low indeed. So we know it’s a safe vaccine.”

Workers at the state’s medi-hotels housing COVID-19 infected guests will be among the first South Australians to receive the jab as part of Monday’s nationwide rollout.

A woman in her 30s and a child in hotel quarantine became the state’s latest confirmed cases on Sunday and Dr Cusack said it was a timely reminder of the risk returned travellers pose to staff.

“That’s why it’s so important that those people involved in the quarantine program and the medi-hotels are vaccinated at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

“There’s always that risk, as we’ve seen in other states, that it can break out of the hotel system.”

Frontline health workers and aged care residents also head up the state’s priority list to initially receive the vaccine, with 12,000 Pfizer doses allocated to SA over the first three weeks of the program.

The initial batch of 4000 Pfizer doses arrive in Adelaide via Sydney today.

Several hundred residents in aged-care homes will also receive the vaccine.

Medi-hotel nurse Kristian Sanchez and police officer Sergeant Amanda Kuchel are in line to get the state’s first injections.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre have been set up as the first two vaccination hubs in SA.

Lyell McEwin Hospital is set to be the third Adelaide hospital to serve as a vaccine hub in two weeks.

Another six hubs will open in time.

-with AAP

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