Medical students boost COVID-19 vaccine team ranks

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Queensland Health's Dr Lachlan Gordon and JCU medical students standing in front of the JCU vaccination centre.

Queensland Health's Dr Lachlan Gordon and JCU medical students standing in front of the JCU vaccination centre.

James Cook University medical students have been recruited to Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service’s COVID-19 vaccination team to help prevent the spread of the virus in Far North Queensland.

The first cohort of a larger group of nearly 60 JCU students will start vaccinating public patients from this weekend, as they help expand the Health Service’s vaccination workforce.

CHHHS executive director of COVID-19 vaccination program, Dr Don Mackie, said the students would be working under the supervision of experienced doctors and nurses at the COVID-19 community vaccine centre on JCU’s Nguma-bada (Smithfield) campus.

“To date, our Health Service has administered nearly 80,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since our program commenced in February,” Dr Mackie said.

“This includes more than 4000 doses at our Smithfield community vaccine centre here at JCU, which opened less than a month ago.

“We still need to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, so boosting our workforce with medical students – who already have clinical experience with administering intramuscular injections – will allow us to provide greater access to the vaccine; while allowing our hard-working clinical teams to concentrate on normal day-to-day hospital activity.”

CHHHS Senior Medical Administration Registrar Dr Lachlan Gordon - who is a JCU medicine graduate - has been instrumental in developing the pilot vaccination program between the two organisations.

Dr Gordon said the program was planned to be expanded to other universities and to also include students in nursing, dentistry, paramedicine and pharmacy.

“At this stage, our vaccinating students will be mainly working weekends at the JCU Smithfield clinic, because we need to be able to fit around their studies,” he said.

“We plan on the students working in other clinics as they are needed.

“The benefit for the students is they receive invaluable clinical experience with working with patients during a pandemic.

“We are hoping the program - a first for Queensland - can be rolled out statewide to boost the vaccination workforce.”

Professor Ian Wright, Head of JCU’s Clinical School, thanked the students for stepping up.

“They’re well prepared for this role, and they're helping to lighten the load on our local health workforce,” he said.

“Our students have already had plenty of experience in delivering such injections, but this is something rare – an opportunity for them to be part of a critical public health initiative against a global threat.”