The Northern Territory is set to be the first jurisdiction in Australia to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all residents aged 16 years and over.
From Tuesday, Darwin residents who are old enough will be able to get the jab after an agreement was reached at last week’s national cabinet meeting.
“This means all the (vaccine rollout phases) are now collapsed for the Territory,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Monday.
“This is a sensible decision based on our indigeneity, mobility, and vulnerability when you consider not just the make-up of the Darwin population but how people move in and out of Darwin.”
Mr Gunner thanked Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying he had been assured the NT would receive the supply of vaccine needed to relax the rollout phases.
Darwin will join the rest of the NT, where the vaccine has been available to Territorians 16 and over since mid-May due to the high percentage of vulnerable Indigenous people in the population.
The decision to discard the phases for Alice Springs and other remote communities comes before an expected influx of interstate tourists.
Mr Gunner said a high-volume vaccine clinic would be opened in Darwin in the coming weeks to deal with the expected surge in demand.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will be available.
“The choice we face is not to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. The choice we face is to vaccinate or get COVID,” he said.
“The virus won’t be eradicated globally and our international borders will reopen.
“I do need you to get the jab. Do it for yourself, your mate, your mother, just do it.”
The NT has a population of about 246,500, which accounts for about one per cent of the Australian population.
About 60 per cent or 147,000 live in the Darwin area, with the remainder dispersed over remote and very remote areas.
The Indigenous population is estimated to be about 74,500, which represents about 30 per cent of the territory’s population.
About seven per cent of the NT population has received a dose of the vaccine compared with 2.8 per cent nationally.