The Queensland government will pause the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Torres Strait for up to a month, with extensive community consultation to be undertaken to address concerns before its restart.
Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service executive director Tony Brown says the issues affecting the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine has affected communities in the region.
""It is vital that we reach out to each community and provide them with clear information and advice about the vaccines, the risks and benefits associated with them and anything else our communities might want to know prior to restarting the vaccination program," Dr Brown said.
"These consultations will begin in the Torres Strait from next week and continue through into the second half of May.
"We expect that, by then, sufficient stocks of the replacement Pfizer vaccine that we will be using to restart the vaccination program will have arrived."
Dr Brown said it was hoped communities could then move past recent uncertainty relating to the AstraZeneca vaccine and understand the importance immunisation has on controlling serious diseases.
Similar consultations will be held with communities in the Northern Peninsula Area on Cape York before the vaccination teams arrive.
Dr Brown said a special freezer to house the Pfizer vaccine was expected to arrive in early May at Thursday Island Hospital, which would be used as a hub for the distribution of the vaccine around the Torres Strait and NPA region.
A total of 884 residents of the Torres Strait have had their first AstraZeneca dose, and those who haven't had any adverse effects will be offered a second dose of the same vaccine.
"We will not be offering Pfizer to community members who have already had a dose of AstraZeneca.," Dr Brown said.
He said they would not have a clear idea of how willing the population was to be vaccinated until the program was restarted, as the national advice undoubtedly had affected confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But once the vaccination program resumes it will continue to be delivered through outreach vaccination teams to each community.
Meanwhile, Queensland has recorded five new cases of coronavirus linked to Papua New Guinea, with all detected in hotel quarantine.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the cases highlighted the importance of getting people in the Torres Strait vaccinated as soon as possible.
Queensland has 36 active cases of COVID-19, including 12 that came from or via PNG.
Queensland has treated 97 coronavirus patients from PNG, including eight medevacs from that country so far this year.
"There are islands in the Torres Strait where you can see PNG from its beaches," Mr Miles said.
"It's incredibly important that we get as many of those folk, who we know are vulnerable, vaccinated as quickly as we can."
Australian Associated Press