Murrumbidgee health authorities say they want to have at least key "target groups" in the region vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District infectious disease specialist Tim Gilbey spoke to media on December 16 and said health officials plan to begin a vaccination program for some residents in March.
"We're still in the planning phase, increasing staff numbers to administer vaccines while we're waiting for the first sets of vaccines that have been purchased [by the federal government]," he said.
"The current plan is a roll out of vaccines to different target groups over the next year. The aim at the moment nationally is to have enough vaccines for everyone to be vaccinated within Australia by the end of next year."
Dr Gilbey said healthcare workers and other "critical service providers" would be among the first in the Murrumbidgee to be vaccinated, along with people aged over 70 and those who are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable.
He said the general population will then be vaccinated in a staggered rollout, with the possibility Riverina residents may receive different vaccines to one another.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt has said the government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and is "on track" to begin a rollout in March.
Dr Gilbey said the alternative BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were relatively unstable and required storage at -80 degrees Celsius, which would make them much costlier to transport than the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"It can be stored at much friendlier temperatures than some of the other vaccines that require very low temperatures for storage which can make it challenging to roll out particularly in rural areas," he said.
He said health authorities were working with Murrumbidgee general practitioners, who will be at the forefront of much of the vaccination program, and raised the possibility of a fly in vaccination service or mobile vans for remote communities.
MLHD director of primary health Alam Yoosuff said vaccination was not the "ultimate bullet" against the virus and stressed the importance of human behaviour.
Dr Yoosuff said health authorities would be watching overseas vaccination programs closely.
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