THE ONLY criteria for Gunnedah residents wanting to be protected against COVID-19 is to be over the age of 50 years, after local respiratory clinics and state-run centres began a new phase of vaccinating.
The federal government's health website indicates vaccinations for over 50s are available in the Gunnedah area.
The mobile respiratory clinic that services Narrabri, Gunnedah, Wee Waa and Boggabri is taking bookings for that category; HealthOne Quirindi; and the Indigenous clinic in Moree.
Bookings at the Tamworth Respiratory Clinic have opened to anyone over the age of 50 as the regional rollout pushes on.
The clinic is run by Northwest Health but is funded by the federal government, allowing it to start Phase 2A this week.
Northwest Health GP Dr Ian Kamerman told the Leader it opens up an opportunity for a big part of the Tamworth population to roll up their sleeves and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
"The only way to escape this is to get a minimum of 80 per cent of the population vaccinated," Dr Kamerman said.
He said despite recent reports of possible side effects, the risk of the jab is "extremely small".
"The AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines here in Australia have been through all the regulatory framework with no shortcuts," he said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is the only jab available at Tamworth practices and the respiratory clinic.
Dr Kamerman said anyone who is worried should talk to their own doctor before booking an appointment.
He said the clinic was "reasonably heavily" booked up with slots for over 50s now open, but confirmed there are bookings available for people to pick a time for a jab online, or over the phone.
"Obviously we would like to be fully booked and we are nowhere near up to using our 400 vaccines per week, it's probably only in the 200s at the moment," he said.
It's only state-run clinics and GP-led respiratory clinics that are vaccinating over 50s at the moment, but private GP clinics are expected to come on board from May 17.
To find out more about your eligibility, or check the nearest vaccination centre, visit https://covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au/eligibility.
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