Icy double vax for Antarctic expeditioners

29 October 2021

The campaign to lift Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rates has taken an icy trip south with the delivery of the first vaccines to Australia’s Antarctic stations.

An Airbus A319 arrived in Wilkins Aerodrome on Thursday evening with a precious cargo of Pfizer vaccines for 27 wintering expeditioners at Casey Station.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the exercise was a reminder of the isolation Australia’s Antarctic Expeditioners face each year and the detailed planning that is in place to support their well-being.

“The Expeditioners headed to the Antarctic before the COVID-19 vaccines were widely available in Australia,” Minister Ley said.

“As the Antarctic season looms and as expeditioners prepare to head home, it is important that they can join the national surge in COVID-19 vaccinations.

“This has been anything but a simple delivery, it is an exercise that has required months of careful planning by the medical staff of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).”

The vaccines had to be stored at the right temperature from their arrival in Hobart, their delivery to the plane, the flight to Antarctica and then the four-hour journey across the ice to the station in a frozen container.

The complex process was carried out with the ongoing support of the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

AAD Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeff Ayton said the vaccine delivery also has consignments for Davis and Mawson research stations, which will be transported during the season. 

Strict COVID-19 prevention measures have ensured that Australia has recorded no COVID-19 cases at its Antarctic stations.