The ACT government has defended its decision not to fast-track vaccinations for front-line border workers, after authorities confirmed two hotel quarantine guests were infected with COVID-19 on Thursday.
Workers involved in Canberra's hotel quarantine process were last week asked whether they'd gotten the coronavirus jab ahead of a repatriation flight arriving from Singapore.
About 70 per cent of workers said that they had, but health authorities haven't asked them since. Defence personnel were not asked because their vaccinations are being handled by the federal government.
An ACT government spokeswoman suggested it would be unfair for hotel quarantine workers to skip the vaccine queue because of the new COVID-19 cases.
Authorities confirmed on Thursday two men had new coronavirus cases in Canberra hotel quarantine.
The ACT's chief health officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, emphasised that the territory already had a "really robust" quarantine system, and the community's safety was being ensured.
She said the coronavirus vaccine was an "added defence" to the ones the ACT already had, and it was important that people didn't "put all their eggs in the one basket of vaccine".
"[Quarantine workers] have been prioritised, they are part of [phase] 1a, and we've allowed approximately a four-week rollout period to those people to get access to the vaccine," Dr Coleman said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine will begin being rolled out in Canberra from next week.
Dr Coleman said there was no way that, even if all the hotel quarantine workers had been vaccinated in week one of the ACT's Pfizer vaccine rollout, they would have been "fully protected" from coronavirus before the repatriation flight landed on Monday.
"We know that maximum effectiveness from a vaccine dose doesn't appear until two weeks after you receive the dose, and we also know that it does take two doses of the vaccine to get maximum effectiveness," Dr Coleman said.
The ACT government spokeswoman said all people in phase 1a of Canberra's vaccine rollout plan were at "some risk" of coming into contact with a person with coronavirus.
She said the priority groups for phase 1a were determined by the federal government based on expert advice.
The phase included people working at hospitals and at residential aged care facilities.
"A worker in a quarantine hotel may come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case but so could a nurse providing care to a positive case in the [intensive care unit]," the spokeswoman said.
"All of these workers are being given access to the vaccination at the same time given their shared risk of coming into contact with a positive case."
She said the ACT government had offered all eligible 1a workers their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and the wait time to get the jab was about three days.
The men in hotel quarantine who were on Thursday confirmed as active coronavirus cases tested negative before they boarded the repatriation flight from Singapore.
Ms Stephen-Smith said it was "likely but not definite" they acquired their infections in transit, but Dr Coleman said they were at a low risk of having been infectious on the flight.
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