JAB supply strains and people shopping about for COVID vaccine options amid a shortage is clogging up the path to freedom from lockdowns in Ballarat.
The state government made clear on Wednesday a focus on increasing vaccination rates, rather than clamping down on active COVID case numbers, would be the way forward for greater easing in restrictions.
In a bid to boost jabs, the state government halved the wait time between AstraZeneca jabs to six weeks, bringing this in line with Pfizer shots, which has intervals pushing out to six weeks in some vaccination hubs due to limited supply.
Ballarat Health Services has also moved to accepting walk-ups for residents aged 18-plus seeking AstraZeneca jabs at its vaccination clinic at The Mercure from Friday.
UFS chief Lynne McLennan said the shorter wait was a great step to reduce disincentive among people who just wanted good access to an effective COVID vaccine and full vaccination sooner.
But UFS, which has paused new first dose Pfizer bookings, has experienced a flood of under-40s cancelling AstraZeneca appointments in a bid to switch jabs after the state government opened Pfizer to young people last week.
This comes as 16 and 17-year-olds, who are only eligible for Pfizer, have joined the jab press with an extra surge on year 12s seeking jabs before exams.
The massive issue is a shortage of suitable vaccines and this is a massive impediment to rapidly getting the population vaccinated.Lynne McLennan, UFS chief executive officer
"The massive issue is a shortage of suitable vaccines and this is a massive impediment to rapidly getting the population vaccinated," Ms McLennan said.
Ballarat federal MP and former Labor health spokesperson Catherine King said this was not good enough, particularly being more than 18 months into the pandemic. A spokesperson for federal Health Minister Greg Hunt's office reassured more jab supply - and more jab opportunities - was due later this month.
Moderna vaccines are on the horizon to arrive later this month and will most likely be available via UFS pharmacies, with most set to offer AstraZeneca vaccinations from Monday.
McLennan made clear AstraZeneca was a good, safe vaccine for adults.
AstraZeneca was the only vaccine accessible to people aged 60-plus.
The federal government's vaccine experts, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, has also cleared the way for Pfizer to be rolled out for children aged 12 to 15.
With vaccines increasingly important for regaining freedoms, and the program opening up to kids, the prime minister needs to get this right.Ballarat federal MP Catherine King
Ms King said Ballarat residents were doing the right thing, but the government was letting the region down.
"We're staying home and we're trying to get ourselves and our families vaccinated, but the simple reality is that the supply isn't there," Ms King said.
"...With vaccines increasingly important for regaining freedoms, and the program opening up to kids, the prime minister needs to get this right. As we move closer to reopen, the Morrison Government must ensure adequate supplies for Pfizer for kids and all who it is recommended."
In Ballarat, 58.9 per cent of eligible people have received at least one COVID vaccine jab and 39 per cent were fully vaccinated.
To date, Victoria has received 2,684,832 Pfizer and 3,498,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for delivery though state government and primary care vaccination sites, according to the federal health department.
A spokesperson for Minister Hunt's officer said Ballarat had been doing an amazing job so far.
"As more supply becomes available from this month, including one million doses of Moderna, which we expect to arrive in late September, there will be more opportunities for Australians to get vaccinated," the spokesperson said.
"So if you haven't received a COVID-19 vaccine, please call your local GP, community pharmacy or state vaccination clinic and book a vaccine today."
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