People keen on getting a jab but frustrated at being told to wait have discovered a secret way to potentially queue jump – and health officials seem to be turning a blind eye to it.
One Sydneysider told news.com.au this was how “pretty much all of my friends” were booking shot slots at vaccination hubs.
From early May, New South Wales opened up vaccinations to under 50s. Anyone between 40 and 49 years old is now eligible, with most jabs to be administered at the Sydney Olympic Park vaccination hub or regional centres.
But you couldn’t just turn up and hope for a shot. NSW Health advised that people needed to register online and be added to a waiting list. Within 14 days of doing so they would be advised when they could book in.
Weeks later, many have become exasperated at waiting, and at the fact they haven’t been offered an appointment.
Now a link to a website, being circulated among Sydneysiders, appears to allow people in that age bracket to go ahead and book vaccine appointments at Sydney Olympic Park directly despite no notification from NSW Health that they were now eligible to do so.
Some slots could be booked for the very next day.
The website appears to be from NSW Health, but there is no link to it from NSW Health’s official vaccinations website.
“How all my friends” got jab
Inner Sydney local Stephan, who did not want to use his surname, told news.com.au that the “private link” was being circulated widely among people who NSW Health had yet to offer a slot to after registering in the official way.
“I was keen to register when my age bracket was announced so I put my email down for a notification,” he said.
“That notification never came, I haven’t heard of a single person (who) has received the NSW Health email notification.
“But a few days later I received a private link from a friend which took me straight to the registration page where those between 40 and 49 were able to register for Pfizer at Olympic Park.
“This is pretty much how all of my friends found out.”
Stephan said that when he booked there was a “full calendar” of slots available. He got his first Pfizer just days later and is booked in for his second. He has still not yet received a notification from NSW Health that he can book in a jab.
Pfizer booking available the next day
News.com.au has received the link, the URL of which is connected to the website of NSW Health’s Sydney Local Health District.
Clicking through appears to allow you to book two appointments at Sydney Olympic Park – one for the initial Pfizer jab and the follow up three weeks later.
Users do have to confirm they are eligible to receive the jab. However, being a “general adult” between 40 and 49 is an option.
Most appointments via the link were from mid-July onwards but a few were available for the very next day.
The under the radar booking system has led to a situation where some people who have registered for a jab are still waiting while others, having used the website, have already got an appointment.
It also means scores of people who now apparently have an appointment may still be on the NSW Health system as waiting for a shot slot.
NSW Health says people must be eligible
News.com.au asked NSW Health if there were any concerns that the website, which asked for Medicare information, was not genuine. The organisation did not answer that question, but also did not say the link was anything other than the real thing.
Indeed, NSW Health said a booking URL was in circulation.
“When availability arises at NSW Health vaccination clinics, people aged 40-49 who have registered their interest are contacted and offered appointments, ensuring as many people as possible have access to the vaccine and NSW Health makes maximum use of its available supply,” a spokeswomen told news.com.au.
“People in this group notified of available appointments are provided with a link to the online booking system for their personal use.”
From this week, NSW residents can also register their interest in getting jab via the Service NSW app.
Will people who book via the website link be able to get their jab?
“Everyone who attends any NSW Health Covid-19 vaccination centre is assessed for eligibility in person on the day of the booking by a qualified health professional and undergoes a robust process of identification,” the spokeswoman said.
NSW Health would not say whether people aged 40-49 who had booked via the URL, rather than waiting for the notification from the health body, would be eligible when they tuned up for their appointment.
It wasn’t a problem for Stephan. He received his first jab last week and said it was “smooth sailing” at the vaccine hub, despite the booking brouhaha.
“We are lucky that while the notifications are disorganised, the actual vaccination centre is thoroughly efficient,” he said.
“My only symptom was a sore arm,” he added.
On Thursday, NSW Health said it had administered its highest number of vaccines in a single day – 14,595, with around a third of those at Sydney Olympic Park.
The total number of shots given out in NSW stands at 1,377,812, with 461,855 doses administered by NSW Health and 915,957 by GPs.