MANY were describing the new rush to nab a Pfizer jab as like trying to score tickets to an epic rock concert.
Some even managed to find and secure pre-release spots a night before the state government's booking system officially opened to Victorians aged 16 to 39 for the COVID-19 vaccination.
The state's online booking system, which manages appointments for Ballarat Health Services' base at The Mercure, crashed under demand with the release of 830,000 bookings, including 450,000 first-dose Pfizer appointments, in the next four weeks.
Federation University student Jackson Brown considers himself lucky to get an early appointment, helped by being a Country Fire Authority member in his hometown Corryong.
The 23-year-old had his Pfizer jab at the Mercure on Wednesday afternoon. He said some of his mates had secured jabs in the next couple of weeks. Others found this hard.
I want to be back playing footy and doing all the things I love doing.Jackson Brown
"The quicker we get vaccinated, the quicker we all can get out again," Mr Brown said. "I want to be back playing footy and doing all the things I love doing."
Mr Brown is a senior footballer with Dunnstown, which earned a spot in Central Highlands Football League finals. The league had been set to launch finals last weekend and has contingencies in place, depending on the length of lockdown.
Mr Brown, who is studying teaching, has also been undertaking his university placements online with secondary students in home learning at a Melbourne school. He said this had been a big challenge.
The Victorian government had opened up AstraZeneca vaccinations to adults aged under-40 a fortnight ago.
Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for under-40s from Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and remains the only vaccine available to 16 and 17-year-olds.
At one point the booking site was receiving 50,000 hits per minute with some young people telling The Courier they were continually timed out. Others got through for a first dose in early November.
A further 1.3 million calls were made to the coronavirus vaccination hotline, which would only accept bookings from 8am.
Such demand created a large over-flow to Ballarat's other vaccine providers.
Phone lines for the Commonwealth-funded UFS mass vaccination centre were swamped with the community organisation calling for patience on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.
Wait times for Pfizer bookings at UFS had also extended to November and, unlike state hubs, those aged 18 to 39 are unable to swap AstraZeneca appointments for Pfizer due to limited supply.
Ballarat Community Health chief Sean Duffy said his clinics had also been fielding a high volume of calls since Premier Daniel Andrews' Pfizer announcement on Tuesday.
Mr Duffy said BCH had been fielding queries from people in Melbourne, Geelong and the Wimmera, who were prepared to travel for a jab.
We want that increased pressure. We want people to get vaccinated.Sean Duffy, Ballarat Community Health chief
"We're very busy and booked up for some time but we're getting through it," Mr Duffy said. "We want that increased pressure. We want people to get vaccinated...It can be a bit frustrating, but it's also a positive thing that there is a high volume of people getting vaccinated."
BCH clocked up 5000 jabs across its sites last week.
Mr Duffy encouraged people to book online at bchc.org.au.
Anyone aged 16 to 59 can book an appointment for the state mass vaccination hub via the state's coronavirus hotline, 1800 675 398, or online portal.cvms.vic.gov.au/. The clinic only accepts walk-ups from over-60s.
People are encouraged to check the government booking site regularly for new appointments.
For the UFS clinic on Dana Street, call 4320 0891 (Pfizer and AstraZeneca) or online ufs.com.au/vaccine (AstraZeneca only).
UFS' Buninyong pharmacy has also had a steady stream of bookings for over-60s.
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