A Port Stephens couple has hit out at the federal government COVID-19 vaccine roll-out after being told by their local medical clinic that they would have to wait four months before they could receive their vaccination.
Corlette couple Richard, aged 70, and Trish Casey, who suffers from a condition with a predisposition to blood clots, said they were appalled when told that they would have to wait until September to get a shot at their clinic on the Tomaree Peninsula.
The Health Department, in response, says the allocation of doses had increased in Port Stephens by approximately 2,000 doses a week.
The Caseys say they took turns to contact their clinic, ringing on separate occasions, to book in a vaccination only to be given the same message about the four-month wait.
"As a 70-year-old, I understood that I was part of the 1B (higher risk) phase of the roll-out, and would be able to get a shot immediately," said Mr Casey.
"But according to the GP, they have only been receiving enough doses of the vaccine to vaccinate 100 people a week, which accounts for the very long delay. I am not blaming the clinic, but it seems our government has decided that the older residents of Nelson Bay are not important enough to ensure that sufficient vaccine doses are provided to immunise them as soon as possible."
A Department of Health spokesperson said that it was working closely with NSW to identify access gaps, ensure comprehensive coverage and identify any further opportunities to expand allocation (including by reallocating doses where it makes sense to do so).
"The number of appointments available, online or via phone bookings, will continue to increase as more doses of vaccines become available and more vaccination clinics are on board," the spokesperson said.
"There are now more than 4,600 primary care vaccination sites participating in the vaccine roll-out, 20 of which are in the Port Stephens region (19 GPs and one vaccination clinic). On May 5, the government announced an immediate increase to allocations for practices with low to medium allocations. Practices with an allocation of 50 or 100 now receive 150 or 200 per week.
"The majority of the clinics in the Port Stephens region will be receiving an increase to their allocated doses which will support further appointment availability."
Nelson Plaza Clinic, which spent significant time and money gearing up for the vaccine roll-out, has had its number of vaccines increased from 50 to 150 a week.
"While this is still shy of the 2,500 a week we originally asked for, it is better than the previous amount and we hope this number will continue to increase. Our bookings are open with only a couple days waiting period," said Dr Alex Richardson.
He said that the drive to vaccinate the Port Stephens community for COVID-19 was an important issue for the clinic.
"We are getting some people asking questions about the vaccines, both the AstraZenica and Pfizer shots, but the majority are just happy to be vaccinated."
Dr Damian Welbourne, co-owner of the Raymond Terrace Family Practice which operates the respiratory clinic, said that they were administering around 900 vaccinations a week.
"Our preference is for people to book online. Currently, the waiting time is no more than three days and we are open Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings to cater for the increased demand."
The COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder gives eligible consumers one central place to find clinics near them and can be accessed at www.health.gov.au.
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