THE mass vaccination hub at Belmont will begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine "in coming weeks" as the Sydney outbreak continues to grow.
The hub at the former Bunnings site at Belmont has had the capacity to offer AstraZeneca since it opened last week, but initially, it was only offering the Pfizer vaccine to people aged 40 to 59, and those in "priority groups" - such as health care workers and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
But "significant" demand for vaccinations at the Belmont facility has continued to leave many Hunter residents frustrated and unable to make an appointment.
Mayfield resident Jenepher Surbey, 59, said she would be happy with "any vaccine", but she had found booking an appointment for either "a total fiasco".
NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has hinted at an announcement regarding the possibility of walk-in appointments for AstraZeneca at some of the state-run vaccine hubs. She said the "scarcity" of Pfizer supplies meant it was likely that people who had already received their first dose may be asked to delay their second, although health care workers would still be prioritised.
"We need to look at how we can best use the available Pfizer supply that we have to have the best impact to help the community," she said. "If we have to inconvenience some other members of the community to do that, I would like to apologise ahead of time."
COVID vaccination NSW
Elizabeth Grist, lead of the COVID-19 response for Hunter New England Health, said they had received a "great response" to the new facility at Belmont from the community. But she called for patience and understanding for the delays, while encouraging people to continue checking for new appointments online.
"There is currently significant demand for appointments at our vaccination centres, including the Belmont hub," Ms Grist said.
Ms Grist said it was pleasing to see the community was following public health advice and seeking a vaccination.
"We encourage anyone who has not been able to secure an appointment to regularly check the eligibility checker as more appointments become available," she said.
"Please be assured that everyone who wants to be vaccinated, will be vaccinated, as the Australian Government makes more supplies available."
Ms Grist confirmed that the Belmont hub would begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, in addition to Pfizer.
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Jenepher Surbey said the first time she had tried to make an appointment via the Eligibility Checker for a vaccine locally, she spent about 30 minutes going through the questions before a notification popped up to "try again in 90 days".
She had been unable to log her Medicare details, and then unable to choose a time via the booking system on subsequent attempts.
"I'm 59. I'm an ex-IT manager, well educated. It just makes me wonder - how is everyone else doing it who isn't IT savvy?" Ms Surbey said. "It has all been opened up now, and while I might be in a priority group, I'm now competing with all these other people to get a vaccination. That's certainly how I feel anyway."
Ms Surbey hoped the community could get ahead of the Delta variant of COVID-19 by wearing "P2/N95" masks, which reduce aerosol transmission.
"Everyone in Newcastle is waiting for the infection to arrive," she said.
"Delta is aerosol transmitted. So having people wander around with their home-made masks isn't going to cut it. I'd like to see a government response to provide them for free."
Sharon Claydon, the Federal member for Newcastle, said she had been inundated with calls to her office from constituents who had not been able to access the vaccine at the hub or their local GP.
"We know that the key problem is the uncertainty of vaccine supply," she said.
"Scott Morrison decided the vaccine rollout was not a race and, as a result, we simply don't have enough supply."
As well as the eligibility checker, you can also try your luck via hotdoc.com.au to find a doctor near you that is offering the vaccine.
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