Nurse administers one Covid vaccine in eight hours at Victorian hub as NSW ramps up rollout

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/may/19/nurse-administers-one-covid-vaccine-in-eight-hours-at-victorian-hub-as-nsw-ramps-up-rollout


Nurse ‘furious’ over slow pace of Australia’s rollout says supply of doses is not the problem – people are not showing up to get them

Victoria opened mass Covid vaccination centres last month, but one nurse says few people are turning up to get their jabs.


A nurse who administered just one vaccine in the course of an eight-hour shift at one of Victoria’s mass vaccination hubs says she is “furious” at the “snail’s pace” of the vaccine rollout.

The nurse said working in Australia was a drastically different experience to places such as the UK and US, where people were streaming through vaccination centre doors.


“During one eight-hour shift I gave just one vaccine, and I came out afterwards just fuming,” she told Guardian Australia. “It’s slow, it’s frustrating for the nurses, and it’s concerning that Australia seems to take this attitude of, ‘let’s just shut the borders for as long as possible’ while there is vaccine just sitting there.”

The nurse, who did not want her name used as employees are not allowed to speak to the media, said supply at the vaccine centre was not an issue – “there’s plenty,” she said. But people were not coming, she said. It was so slow that anyone who walked in without an appointment could get vaccinated even if they were not strictly in an eligible category, she said.


A combination of the centre being hard to see from the street and poorly advertised, fear about the AstraZeneca vaccine, and complacency of Australians towards vaccination due to low Covid cases, she believed, was behind the slow pace.


“It’s a massive setup, and it’s very efficient and everybody who comes in is really impressed with it, but the problem is I’ve had to drag people in,” she said.

“I’ve brought in friends in their 60s or 50s who are usually intelligent people but who are reading so much misinformed rubbish about the AstraZeneca vaccine and it means they are reluctant to get vaccinated. I had the AstraZeneca vaccination myself because I don’t want to recommend a vaccine I am not prepared to get, and it was fine, it’s a good vaccine.


“But I feel like not enough is being done to educate people about it.”

She said while the centre is expected to get deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine and storage capacity in coming weeks, it would only be offered to under-50s initially.


“It won’t help those older people who are spooked by the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said. “I’ve had some people who walk out once I tell them that we only have AstraZeneca. They don’t want it.”

She said the hub was careful not to waste vaccine, so it meant anyone who showed up received one even if they did not fall into a priority category. But she said the vaccines may be better used by GPs, who have reported that they have struggled to get enough doses for their patients, and who older patients may prefer to see because they want to discuss the vaccine with someone who knows their medical history.


A spokesman for the Victorian department of health said it was normal that some vaccination hubs would be quieter than others, and that “tens of thousands of people are now attending our vaccination centres every week”.


Monday was one of the biggest single vaccination days for Victoria on record, with around 9,000 vaccine doses administered through state-run centres and more than 13,000 calls to the booking hotline.


“More vaccines have been delivered through state-run services in Victoria than any other state, and our open-access vaccination centres are driving that,” the spokesman said. Eligible Victorians can now access the Pfizer vaccine through many of these centres by calling the booking hotline.

There are more than 30 open-access vaccination centres across Victoria, with more being added every week. Vaccination centres were quiet in the days and weeks following the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s decision to advise a preference for Pfizer for people aged under 50, but bookings and walk-ins are gradually picking up.


Meanwhile in New South Wales, Covid-19 vaccinations are by appointment only, but are now being offered to those aged between 40 and 49. People in that age group can register their interest online, and it means any mass-vaccination hubs or clinics that are quieter or have unused vaccine can then offer appointments more widely if people in higher-priority categories have not taken up those appointments.

People on the register of interest list will be contacted as appointments become available, starting with those aged 49 and working back.


The president of the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price, said she was hearing anecdotally that there were mass vaccination hubs around the country that were quiet.


“And yet we also know GPs want to deliver more vaccines and can’t get them,” she said. “Those in their 70s and 80s especially prefer seeing their own doctor over going to a hub. Once younger and more mobile cohorts become eligible for the vaccine, that’s when I think we will see mass vaccination centres really fill up. So I am not saying they don’t have a role.


“But of course it is very frustrating to see a mass site with lots of doses while general practices are having to send long-term patients elsewhere because they don’t have enough. It is GPs who are the true mass vaccinators.”


The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, said once the federal government outlines a plan for opening international borders, people might feel more compelled to get vaccinated.


“A certain number of people will go and get the vaccine because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “A certain number of people will get the vaccine because they really are worried about getting sick with Covid. But there’s an awful lot of people who don’t feel threatened by the virus who don’t see any direct benefit from a vaccine. So they ask ‘why should I get it done?’


“Well, we’ve got to answer those questions so that every person can really clearly see the benefits, and weigh them up against the risks, which of course are negligible. And therefore I think setting a date for travel would be helpful.”