Canberrans are being urged to remain calm and patient after reporting problems with booking in for the second phase of the vaccine rollout, which is due to begin on Monday (22 March).
Complaints were raised today about the Federal Government’s booking and eligibility site, which some people could not access due to demand while others were told to call their local GPs, some of whom were also in the dark about the vaccine rollout.
Phase 1B, which cover adults over the age of 70, Indigenous people over 55, adults with an underlying health condition, and critical and high-risk workers, is the first to incorporate GP clinics and medical centres, with vaccine administration so far being left to a handful of hubs due to logistical constraints.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) called for greater support from the Federal Government to help ease the “extraordinary amount of pressure” on GPs.
“We need the government to communicate clearly with us,” President Dr Karen Price.
“GPs need assurances on the supply chain of doses and predictable supply well ahead of time in order to match the demand with supply, staffing and practice logistics.
“Issues concerning the online booking system must be resolved as quickly as possible. The RACGP is keenly aware of concerns regarding the integration of software systems and how this is affecting the ability of people to book their vaccine appointment online.”
Dr Price also called on the government to avoid building unrealistic expectations during the early stages of the vaccine’s rollout.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith admitted that there would be teething issues with such a large rollout and tried to address concerns from people who couldn’t book an appointment, saying Australia’s situation meant vaccines were not urgent.
“We are in a fantastic position,” she said. “While we are really keen to ensure that everyone can get vaccinated in a timely way … not everyone can be vaccinated all at once, here in the ACT, and indeed Australia.
“We have never had community transmission in the ACT and we have no community transmission in Australia at this point in time … [so] there is no huge rush to be vaccinated.
“It is a huge logistical exercise. Please be patient, please be understanding and please be polite.”
Ms Stephen-Smith said GPs are also facing some uncertainty around the rollout of the vaccine, including exactly when supplies would be delivered but that the Commonwealth was also constrained in regards to vaccine supply from overseas.
The vaccine will be available at 18 general practices and medical centres across the ACT and three in Queanbeyan but some Canberrans have raised concerns about the number of GP clinics offering the jab in Canberra’s Inner South.
Rebecca, who lives in Forrest, said her local GP was not able to provide any information about when the vaccine would be available and was frustrated as they have a lot of vulnerable people who attend their practice.
This includes her 80-year-old mother, who has dementia and lives in an over-55s village.
“I am wondering why this is when the demographics mean we have a lot of people over 70 and several suburbs with high rates of social housing and limited access to public transport” she said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said an additional 100 Commonwealth clinics would come online today (18 March). He also said listed GPs would accept all patients in response to concerns GPs would only accept patients currently on their books.
To check your eligibility and make a booking, visit covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au/eligibility.
For more information about the rollout of the vaccines in the ACT, visit covid19.act.gov.au/vaccine.