Ballarat's mass vaccine clinic at the Mercure Hotel on Main Road will significantly expand its capacity from Monday (April 26).
The new system will now allow walk-ins for anyone over 70, but those wishing to be vaccinated are being urged to book to avoid any delays.
The move to expand the capacity of mass vaccination clinics was decided at a national cabinet on Thursday.
The CEO of Ballarat Health Services Dale Fraser said the AstraZeneca vaccination would be administered to over 70s as recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
We would prefer you to come via booking so we can prevent unnecessary delays.Dale Fraser, CEO Ballarat Health Services
Mr Fraser said the vaccination centre would open up to all those over 50 from Monday May 3, again offering the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Of the increased capacity from this Monday, Mr Fraser said: "Bookings are preferred through the 1800 675 398 - number but walk-ins are also possible."
"We would prefer you to come via booking so we can prevent unnecessary delays."
He acknowledged some teething troubles with the booking line, saying: "We would encourage people to be patient and persevere. If you can't get through to the 1800 number, you are more than welcome to take walk-ins here."
He also urged all those who booked to ensure they kept their appointment.
"The worst case scenario is that you book and don't turn up. That's a wasted vaccine. We would implore people, if they are going to book, that they attend.
"If they don't attend, that's a person that doesn't get the vaccine."
From April 26: Vaccination Centre at the Mercure to offer AstraZeneca vaccine to all those over 70. Bookings are encouraged but walk-ins are possible. Previously over-70s were able to get bookings through their GP but this is expanding availability more broadly.
May 3: Vaccination centre is due to open up to all those over 50, again with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
- See Ballarat Health Services for more information: https://www.bhs.org.au/news-and-events/covid-19-information/vaccination/
Call the state government run number: 1800 675 398.
Note that vaccinations cannot be booked through Ballarat Health Services nor the Mercure.
CAPACITY AT THE MERCURE
The centre is currently open from 8am to 8pm. Mr Fraser said if demand increased the vaccination centre could extend its opening hours to include the weekend.
The maximum vaccination capacity at the Mercure is 1200 people a day, Mr Fraser said. Mr Fraser said they were currently running 200 a day, mostly for frontline workers.
The vaccination clinic at the Mercure opened earlier this month and had been working on vaccine appointments for 1A category including health care workers and some 1B referrals. It will now cater for a much wider population group.
Ballarat along with Sunshine and Heidelberg joined the list of those who will now be offering vaccines to wider groups.
The Mercure centre will adopt the expanded coverage from Monday April 26.
And all over-50s will be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine from next month.
The move comes as health authorities seek to make best use of supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to finish off the first phases of the rollout - which have fallen well short of predicted timeframes - and move into a broader phase.
Earlier this month the AstraZeneca jab was linked to rare but deadly blood clots, and was not recommended to Australians under 50.
In order to ramp up the rollout, Australians over-50 can get the AstraZeneca jab at state and territory facilities and GP respiratory clinics from May 3, before all GP clinics have them from May 17.
Nearly 1.8 million Australians have now been vaccinated, with about 60,000 doses administered each day.
According to the the state government phone bookings are recommended for high-volume vaccination sites, but walk-in appointments will also be available. Information on how eligible Victorians can access high-volume sites for forward bookings and walk-in appointments, including wait times, is available at coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine.
The national cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday, also agreed to tackle the problem - raised by a number of premiers - of a high proportion of hotel quarantine cases coming from India and other high-risk nations.
The number of repatriation flights from India will be cut along with the number of direct flights allowed to land in Australia.
It will also be harder for Australians to be granted an exemption to travel to India, and pre-flight COVID-19 test requirements for people returning will apply.
"As time goes on and the pandemic continues to rage, there are countries that are frankly of greater risk than others," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
India recorded more than 314,000 cases in one day according to its most recent figures, the worst single day for any country during the pandemic.
Other countries could also be included in the restrictions, once Australia drafts its high-risk nation list which will be similar to that in use in the UK.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese visited a Melbourne nursing home on Thursday where no residents or staff have been vaccinated.
"What a debacle. The residents of St Kilda's Sacred Heart Nursing Home were told this week they will finally receive their jab - next month," he said.
More than 118,000 aged care and disability residents have received a first dose, but the figure falls to just over 65,000 for full vaccinations.
There are about 190,000 people in those groups, considered to be among the most vulnerable.
The numbers are overwhelmingly in aged care with just 6.5 per cent of all disability residents receiving a jab.
Health department secretary Brendan Murphy said he expected the residential aged care vaccine rollout would be finished "in a few weeks".
"We will soon have them completely protected and they are the single most high risk group in this country and all around the world from COVID."
With Australian Associated Press