A mass vaccination hub for Blue Mountains residents needs to be set up immediately as locals face months-long waits for vaccines, according to Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman.
But the Labor MP's call threatened to be overshadowed by a political war of words after Liberal Senator Marise Payne accused her of "undermining" the vaccination effort.
"I expect and would hope all leaders in our community, including the Member for Macquarie, would be encouraging and supporting our national vaccination effort, not undermining it," said Senator Payne in response to Ms Templeman's call for a local vaccination hub.
The Macquarie MP expressed surprise at the reaction.
"I am puzzled to see how the foreign minister can accuse me of 'undermining' the vaccine rollout by calling for additional pathways to vaccination," she said.
"I'll leave it to the foreign minister to play politics on this one. I just want to see more vaccines being delivered locally to more people. Right now, I know people have had no choice but to book for vaccinations in COVID hotspots like Sydney Olympic Park, Macquarie Fields or even Nepean Hospital, in the newly-locked down suburb of Kingswood. All of us would prefer to have the chance to stay local and we deserve the security of being vaccinated close to home."
Ms Templeman said a mass vaccination hub is "desperately needed in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury", as well as a mobile in-reach service for remote parts of the electorate.
"There's not a single hub in the Blue Mountains or Hawkesbury to be vaccinated [at], and I have had residents telling me they have to wait until September or October to get a jab locally - if there is availability at all," she said.
"We've had GPs doing what they can with the workforce they have and with the supplies that they have, but demand is too great."
Her call came after council voted at its last meeting to back a move by Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill to offer council facilities to help with the vaccine roll-out.
Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has written to NSW health minister Brad Hazzard urging him to take up the offer.
"We need NSW Health to work with our local council, who have offered whatever assistance is needed with provision of spaces, and we need to set up walk-in vaccination centres or hubs," she wrote.
Ward 2 Cr Romola Hollywood also said she hopes the government "listens" to this call.
"Our council would provide facilities to support this," she said.
But Senator Payne said the government is already focused on ensuring there are more access points across the region so that locals can be vaccinated in their own community.
"To date, more than 13.5 million vaccine doses have now been administered, and over 1 million doses are being administered each week," she said.
"As of August 8, 2021, there are 18 general practices administering AstraZeneca in our region, eight of these are also administering Pfizer and three Commonwealth vaccination clinics are administering both AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
"In addition, two general practices will commence administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks, along with one additional participating practice transitioning to Pfizer in the Blue Mountains region.
"There are currently 280 pharmacies providing vaccinations in Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains," she said.
"This will increase significantly in the coming weeks, with all 1118 suitable community pharmacies across NSW to be offered the opportunity to order AstraZeneca vaccines... Our government will continue to support our local GPs, pharmacies and health personnel and the vital role they're playing as part of the vaccine rollout."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.