Young Sydneysiders are using ‘secret’ website links to access Pfizer vaccines, as frustrations grow over their inability to easily access jabs and only vague timelines on when they can expect them.
People are sharing the short cut on social media to get vaccinated ahead of schedule, rushing to seek COVID protection as Sydney faces what Premier Gladys Berejiklian calls its “scariest” period of the pandemic.
“I feel a little guilty about skipping the queue, but at no point did I lie,” said Sydney woman Penelope, telling The New Daily her experience with this ‘secret’ website link.
“I tried to alert them. I showed photo ID with my age and my Medicare card. They still let me get it.”
TND has spoken to numerous young people in Sydney who used a legitimate link on the NSW Health website to book Pfizer vaccinations, despite not meeting any of the current eligibility criteria.
The link is circulating on social media and on message boards, with many referring to it as a ‘secret link’ – it’s difficult to find by directly navigating the front end of the website.
Pfizer is currently in relatively short supply in Australia, and not broadly available to the general public aged under 40 years.
Under the federal government’s phased rollout, vaccinations for Pfizer are only open for those aged between 40 and 60.
AstraZeneca is the preferred vaccine for those over 60, while Pfizer is preferred for those under 60.
However, young people can now request AstraZeneca from their doctor.
Most young people have no firm timeline on when they could get Pfizer, the federal government only vaguely pointing toward the last three months of 2021, when tens of millions of doses arrive from overseas.
The secret club the young are lining up to join
“Someone sent it to my friend, who then sent it to me, like ‘PSA, here’s the link’,” Penelope, 28, told TND.
“I felt kind of panicked because I felt like I’d miss out if I didn’t get in quick.”
She doesn’t qualify in a priority group for Pfizer, and said she hadn’t been eligible for a Pfizer jab under current criteria, but signed up anyway.
In another part of Sydney, another woman, Sarah, received the same link from a friend.
“I was trying to get AstraZeneca actually, but my friend sent me the Pfizer link, which she was using to sign up with her boyfriend,” 30-year-old Sarah told TND.
Penelope got her vaccine two weeks ago, while Sarah got hers last week.
Both say they didn’t lie on their registration forms, and filled in accurate information before being allowed to book at vaccination hubs.
“At no point did it stop me. It didn’t have any messages saying, ‘You’re ineligible’,” Sarah said.
In a statement to TND, NSW Health said everyone arriving at vaccine clinics “is assessed for eligibility in person on the day of the booking” and will “undergo a robust process of identification”.
However, both women said they were not asked, at any point, to prove they were in a priority group for Pfizer.
To the contrary, Penelope said she had told hospital staff she wasn’t eligible, but was still given a jab.
After reading up on eligibility criteria, she thought she’d fallen victim to a scam, and called NSW Health to report she’d been able to book in despite being ineligible.
“Someone called back. We compared the URL to the one the hospital had, and they matched. She said it was fine to book,” Penelope said.
NSW Health told TND it “continues to vaccinate eligible people in the priority groups”.
A spokesperson didn’t respond to questions about whether the department was concerned ineligible under-40s were being vaccinated.
However, in recent days the website used by Penelope, Sarah and many others has begun displaying more prominent pop-up messages, warning people they may not be eligible to book.
The website warns eligibility “will be checked” and ineligible people “may be refused” at their appointment.
Vaccine wait breeds frustration, guilt
Both Sarah and Penelope said they were conflicted about their vaccination, despite not being strictly eligible, but eager to get protection.
“I do feel bad about it now. If I had done proper research before, and known there were people vulnerable who needed it, I might have done differently,” Penelope said.
“I probably knew something was off about it, but thought somehow there were extra doses because maybe people weren’t coming forward fast enough.”
Sarah said young people were frustrated about having to wait.
“There’s no plan in place for young people to give us a rough idea of when to expect a vaccine. It’s just, ‘You’ll get it eventually’, which is really frustrating,” she said.
“I’ve got family overseas, I just want to see them. So yes, I got selfish about it. I want a vaccine. This was an opportunity to get one.
“People just want to book in. They want to get it done and not worry about the shadow of COVID hanging over you any more. We’re in lockdown now, so getting vaccinated is a sense of something you can do to help. It’s a part I can play in getting back to normalcy.”