COVID Vaccination Shemozzle
My month’s long struggle to get a COVID-19 vaccination in Australia from a confusing, contradictory and obstructionist national vaccination programme.
It’s a matter of public record that there is widespread dissatisfaction about the manner in which the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout is progressing in Australia. It’s slow. It’s inefficient. And it’s managed by two levels of government.
My personal experience in trying to get a vaccine has not been good.
I am in “Group 1B” which means that I am eligible to be vaccinated in the second tranche because I have one of the listed medical conditions. When vaccinations for 1B Australians opened, I actually managed to get a booking with my GP, much to my astonishment. Unfortunately it appears that my GP was one of those who had planned to charge me for a “consult” and then bulk-bill me the jab on a second visit. After the Commonwealth health minister Greg Hunt made it clear that was illegal (ie. there is to be no cost imposed on people being vaccinated against COVID-19), my GP suddenly “changed their policy” and pushed my vaccination back a month. Yeah, they’d planned to bill me to fill in a “consent form”. Nice.
Because I am under 70, I was originally scheduled to receive one of the Australian-made AstraZenica vaccines. Recently the Therapeutic Goods Administration halted that programme owing to concern about blood clots. So my next appointment with the GP was again cancelled until an imported Pfizer vaccine was available.
But suddenly there was good news! Despite the national shortage of Pfizer vaccine, my GP said that Austin Health had some and were vaccinating people under 1B.
Excellent, I thought. Time to get my jab!
My GP gave me the phone number for the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline, so I rang it this morning. They confirmed that, indeed, Austin Health did have Pfizer for 1B and tried to transfer me to make a booking. The calls failed on each occasion. After three attempts, I called-in to the “Vaccination Clinic” at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital as advised by the staff on the hotline.
There was a very long queue. When a security guard asked me why I was entering the site, I told him my situation and he let me through. For whilst vaccination hubs have been quiet the past few weeks, they were suddenly a hive of activity because today was the first day that the “over 50’s” could get an AstraZenica vaccination under Stage 2A.
So having been told by my GP that Austin Health had stocks of the Pfizer vaccine available for any 1B-elibible people, which was confirmed by the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline staff and the security officer, I joined a very long queue of over-50’s.
It didn’t take long for people in the queue to ask what I was doing, given that I was evidently younger than 50. We chatted whilst we waited. And waited. And waited. At the third hour in the queue, an SBS News crew turned-up to film us all.
After three-and-a-half hours I finally made it to the front desk only to be told there was no Pfizer vaccine on-site and so I had to go home.
That’s right. Three-and-a-half hours. It’s difficult to adequately and politely describe my emotions at this point.
On the way out, I met some Austin staff (including a doctor) who apologised and told me that Austin Health were only vaccinating 1A. Apparently they were not vaccinating any 1B people yet. None.
This national vaccination programme is a disgrace. There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be vaccinated who can’t and a system that seems to be confusing, contradictory and obstructionist.
We are in a “state of emergency” but it hardly seems like it when I look at this lacklustre performance by our health system.
A day after this blog post was written, I was contacted by Austin Health and was able to obtain a Pfizer vaccination because – as it turns out – they were vaccinating 1B after all. These vaccinations were being undertaken at another unmarked location. This still doesn’t alter the fact that the information I was given by both the hospital and the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline staff was incorrect.
The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.