Health boss ‘lost for words’ as shots fired in COVID war
Queensland's top health expert was 'lost for words' on an emotional and historic day as the state launched into the fightback against the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, the woman who has guided Queensland through the pandemic since it arrived through a party of Chinese tourists from Wuhan over a year ago, was overjoyed as the vaccination program hit the afterburners from the outset, almost doubling the projected number of jabs on the opening day.
After initially hoping to vaccinate 100 frontline workers on Monday, medics at Gold Coast University Hospital administered almost 180 jabs and hope to have protected more than 1000 Queenslanders by the end of the week.
Doctor Young said she was lost for words as Queensland took its most significant step in the war against the pandemic with the launch of the first phase of a program to vaccinate almost five million Queenslanders over the coming months.
"(A year on from the start of the pandemic) I desperately, desperately hoped this would be where we would be, but I didn't think we would reach it," she said.
"So today is just absolutely fantastic.
"(In) just over a year to be vaccinating the first person is….I'm lost for words - and I'm not often lost for words."
Dr Young, who oversaw the smooth launch like a proud parent, also paused to reflect on the terrible toll of the pandemic, which has killed millions worldwide, including six Queenslanders.
" I do remember those six deaths - of course I do and I'm sure those families will be grieving today with what happened but because of the work that has been done essentially by every Queenslander we didn't end up with those deaths that we were predicting or I was predicting at the start of the pandemic."
Gold Coast nurse Zoe Park made history as the first Queenslander to receive the long-awaited vaccine, getting the needle from clinical nurse consultant Kellie Kenway.
She told media 'it didn't hurt at all'.
The 25-year-old nurse said she understood the importance of being the first to receive the vaccination and hoped it would inspire people of all ages of the importance of the jab in the fight against COVID-19.
"I think it's important to set an example," she said.
"I was always going to get the vaccine, but to be first is a real added bonus.
"My age group is the age group probably least likely to feel like they need to get the jab, but I want to show that everyone should get it."
A Brisbane girl, Ms Park has worked as a nurse for six years, first at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital before moving to the Gold Coast University Hospital in April last year.
She said she had seen first-hand the devastation the virus was capable of, working in the GCUH COVID-19 ward.
"I've seen families being torn apart by it," she said.
"It's really scary.
"I definitely feel safer going to work now."
Ms Park grew up wanting to become a nurse, inspired by her grandmother who also worked as a nurse.
She spoke to her parents soon after receiving the jab.
"They're very proud and really excited."
"They know it's really important."
There are 37,000 frontline workers earmarked for the first round of vaccinations before stage 1b and further phases.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison received his vaccination on Sunday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath and the CHO will be part of the second intake.
Ms D'Ath, who praised yesterday's historic delivery of the state's first COVID-19 vaccines, said she acknowledged it sent an important signal for the PM to be among the first to receive the needle, but Queensland's political leaders would wait their turn after the frontline workers at hospitals, quarantine hotels and aged care homes had been safely administered the vaccine.
Queensland recorded two new cases of the virus yesterday, but both patients were in hotel quarantine when they tested positive.
The state still has five active cases.
Originally published as Health boss 'lost for words' as first shots fired in COVID war