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The Victorian government is looking at opening up the vaccine rollout to those under 50 who are currently ineligible, as the state has reinforced rules stopping people ineligible from getting the Covid-19 vaccine from turning up to hubs to get their first dose.
On Sunday, Guardian Australia reported that due to the low number of people in eligible categories getting vaccinated at the mass vaccination hubs in Victoria, people who were not currently eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine were able to get their first shot of AstraZeneca by turning up and explaining they still wanted to be vaccinated.
A nurse at a Melbourne mass vaccination centre had told Guardian Australia last week that on one day she delivered just one vaccination over the course of an eight-hour shift because of low demand.
The Victorian health department said on Sunday the focus was on the priority groups set out in the federal government’s schedule, and after the story was published, the state appeared to have clamped down on people trying to get the vaccine if they were not currently eligible.
Guardian Australia has heard many people were now being turned away. Yves Rees said they tried to get vaccinated at the hub at the exhibition building in Carlton on Monday night, but was turned away by a nurse.
“She said that’s not correct [and] they’d been inundated with people in [phase] 2B seeking vaccinations and they’d been turning them away,” Rees said.
“She was very polite but very firm … I did get the impression that in response to the article they’d been given advice from higher up to be very firm in turning people away.”
Lee Crawford went along with his partner, who is eligible, to get vaccinated at the showgrounds hub in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, but was also turned away.
“[The nurse] just said flatly: ‘No we don’t do that here at the showgrounds’,” he said. [It] was disappointing, but fine.
“I think my position is where obviously vaccines are still somewhat limited, and priority should absolutely be given to those in most need [but] if there are excess vaccines, or vaccination stations are quiet and there is capacity for those of us who are in those lower priority groups to get vaccinated, of course we would love that opportunity to do that.”
Guardian Australia has sought comment from the Victorian health department.
As the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne’s north grew to nine cases and the state reintroduced restrictions on gatherings and required masks indoors, the acting premier, James Merlino, said it was a “stark reminder” that people should not wait to get vaccinated.
“This is a stark reminder that waiting and thinking, ‘I will wait until the end of the year to get the Pfizer jab’ … waiting is not an option,” he said. “If people want to avoid the situation we are in right now, there is something that everyone can do. If you are eligible, get vaccinated.”
In New South Wales, people between 40 and 49 years of age can now book to get the Pfizer vaccine at vaccination hubs, and South Australia is opening up vaccinations to anyone 16 years and over in regional areas. Merlino said the Victorian government would make some announcements in the coming days on opening up the eligibility criteria to allow more people to get vaccinated but said the federal government needed to guarantee supply of the vaccine first.
“That is part of the examination of what more we can do in terms of who is eligible for the vaccination and how they can be broadened out,” he said. “That comes down to what confidence we have in supply but you need to put that question to the commonwealth.”
Sarah Moran, the chief executive of Girl Geek Academy, who managed to get her first AstraZeneca shot last week, has started a Change.org petition calling for the vaccination program to be expanded to people under 50 who want to get vaccinated now. It currently has just over 200 signatures.
The federal Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said people who want the vaccine should be able to get it.
“Why on earth can’t people under the age of 50, if they choose to go to vaccination hubs, get vaccinated? Let’s just get this job done,” he said. “I think the vaccine rollout is too slow. People weren’t worried when there wasn’t the risk of an outbreak but now there is a risk of an outbreak and more lockdowns.”
Merlino said it would be up to national cabinet to make a decision on whether the government should also offer incentives, such as a lotto ticket, for people who get vaccinated, to drive up the number of people getting the vaccine.
As of Monday, there had been 3.61m vaccine shots given in total across Australia.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Victoria turns away under-50s trying to get Covid jab at vaccination hubs | Health