A novel COVID-19 program, delivering vaccines throughout rural and remote Australia

Fergus W. Gardiner, Zoe Schofield, Miranda Hendry, Kate Jones, Mandy Smallacombe, Mardi Steere, Jenny Beach, Mary Beth MacIsaac, Randall Greenberg, Candice Crawford, Melanie Trivett, Judah Morris, Breeanna Spring, Frank Quinlan, Leonid Churilov, Kris Rallah-Baker, Elli Gardiner, John O’Donnell

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Background: The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) established a unique SARS-CoV-2 vaccination program for vaccinating Australians that live in rural and remote areas. This paper describes the preparation and response phases of the RFDS response.

Methods: This study includes vaccinations conducted by the RFDS from 01 January 2021 until 31 December 2021 when vaccines were mandatory for work and social activities. Prior to each clinic, we conducted community consultation to determine site requirements, patient characteristics, expected vaccination numbers, and community transmission rates.

Findings: Ninety-five organizations requested support. The majority (n = 60; 63.2%) came from Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organizations. Following consultation, 360 communities were approved for support. Actual vaccinations exceeded expectations (n = 70,827 vs. 49,407), with a concordance correlation coefficient of 0.88 (95% CI, 0.83, 0.93). Areas that reported healthcare workforce shortages during the preparation phase had the highest population proportion difference between expected and actual vaccinations. Areas that reported high vaccine hesitancy during the preparation phase had fewer than expected vaccines. There was a noticeable increase in vaccination rates in line with community outbreaks and positive polymerase chain reaction cases [r (41) = 0.35, p = 0.021]. Engagement with community leaders prior to clinic deployment was essential to provide a tailored response based on community expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1019536
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The RFDS COVID-19 response was funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Gardiner, Schofield, Hendry, Jones, Smallacombe, Steere, Beach, MacIsaac, Greenberg, Crawford, Trivett, Morris, Spring, Quinlan, Churilov, Rallah-Baker, Gardiner and O’Donnell.


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