Six million people will become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination from Monday, but plenty are struggling to actually book an appointment.
Details for hundreds of GP clinics across the country went live on Wednesday morning, encouraging those eligible to book in either online or over the phone.
It took many of those GP clinics by surprise, as phones began ringing off the hook.
Plaza Medical in Kalgoorlie is listed as one of just two vaccine providers in the remote mining town.
Rob Sterry, from the clinic, said they had no idea it was coming on Wednesday – and had been dealing with eager and confused patients all morning.
“It’s frustrating for them, and it’s frustrating for us,” he said.
“Our staff are having to put people off.”
The clinic did not have software ready to take bookings yet, but it was hoping to start providing shots from next week.
In some cases, GP clinics have told people they did not know the vaccine rollout was happening at their practice.
Another practice manager expressed frustration that it felt like they were being told what was happening, after the general public.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was always the plan to make the announcement on Wednesday, appearing to contradict the reports from clinics.
“All practices … that are listed today have actually made – not only been approved – but they have made orders themselves,” he said.
“The only practices that are being listed today are those that have submitted and have confirmed their orders.”
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said Australia was not in a hurry with the rollout and people should not badger their GPs.
“While some GP clinics are coming online next week, they won’t be releasing appointments until they’re sure of their vaccine deliveries which are coming in the next day or two,” he said.
Patients urged to show patience
As part of Stage 1b of the rollout, all Australians aged 70 or over become eligible for the vaccine, along with more healthcare and frontline workers, and some with specific medical conditions.
Some were keen to make their appointment early on Wednesday, logging online to find their nearest available GP and do so — and contacted the ABC with their frustrations when they found out that was not possible.
“I was told they do not even have these injections in stock, and will not be taking phone bookings until approximately April 12, so a big disappointment,” one person said.
“I was also told that they were not even aware that the government had put out this news about the rollout – this is not good – lack of communication with GPs, they have been inundated with phone calls.”
Another said they were not given a date on when they might be able to get in.
“I went online to the government site and found that I qualified and phoned the nearest clinic and was advised that they are not taking appointments,” he said.
“When I enquired when I could get an appointment I was advised that they could not confirm when I could get a shot! What is going on?
“I went through the government web site and hit a dead end! I phoned several clinics from the site and none of them even had the Vax!”
Australian Medical Association president Omar Korshid said those GP practices taking part from next week would receive only 50-100 doses.
“You do need to be patient, this is a slow and steady start,” he said.
The Government expects that 4000 GP clinics will be able to administer the vaccines by the end of April.
The ABC also spoke to some people who were turned away from listed GP clinics because they were not already a patient at that practice.
Dr Korshid said they would have to wait.
“For Australians whose usual GP is not involved in the initial rollout or not going to be involved at all, there are other options for accessing the vaccine,” he said.
“We are hoping to see significant state-run vaccination clinics as well as the Commonwealth-run respiratory clinics, so there will be options for all Australians to go and get themselves vaccinated.
“But as we have very limited vaccine available in the country, it is going to take some time.”