Canberrans who are aged between 40 and 49 will be able to get their COVID-19 vaccinations from Thursday, with the ACT government expanding eligibility for the rollout program.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith announced the expansion on Thursday morning.
About 60,000 extra Canberrans will be made eligible for vaccines under the shift, which puts the ACT ahead of the Commonwealth rollout schedule.
The territory is the third Australian jurisdiction to open its vaccine program to 40 to 49-year-olds after NSW and Victoria. Queensland health officials have flagged their program will follow suit next month, while South Australia is vaccinating all adults in its regional areas.
The move comes after COVID-19 exposure sites were identified in nearby parts of NSW.
Popular locations in Goulburn - Trapper's Bakery and the Big Merino Shell Coles Express - were identified as exposure sites by NSW Health on Tuesday night.
Parts of the South Coast, including Hyams Beach and Jervis Bay, were also identified as exposure locations, in a list that grew longer on Wednesday night.
Canberrans who attended coronavirus exposure sites in NSW must quarantine, as the territory remains wary of the virus threat.
Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith said those in the newly eligible cohort could get a Pfizer vaccination at the territory's Garran Surge Centre mass vaccination hub.
The eligible Canberrans could also elect to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at their general practice if they gave informed consent, noting the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation's recommendation against under-50s getting that vaccine.
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Canberra resident Rebecca Scouller, who falls within the 40 to 49 cohort, said she was excited to get the Pfizer vaccine - particularly as the primary carer for her elderly mother.
"For me, it's about getting vaccinated to protect my mum and to make sure that I wouldn't introduce anything to the people that she lives with," Ms Scouller said.
"I expect that a lot of Canberrans who either are vulnerable themselves or care for vulnerable people will be keen to join the queue."
Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith lauded how Canberrans had so far embraced the opportunity to get a Covid vaccine, with more than 100,000 doses having been administered in ACT government-run clinics alone.
However, they warned in a joint statement "everyone will not be able to get their first dose in week one".
"Like all jurisdictions, the ACT faces supply constraints on the availability of COVID-19 vaccines," the ministers said.
"However, with many of the high risk Canberrans now vaccinated, the ACT government is now in a position to support more Canberrans to receive their COVID-19 vaccine."
Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith said the increased eligibility criteria would be supported by "an improved online booking system for ACT vaccination clinics and extended opening hours for the telephone booking line".
The My Digital Health Record system was the portal used for Covid vaccine bookings in the ACT.
Some Canberrans struggled to sign up to the platform, given they had to have visited an ACT public health facility using their current Medicare card to do so immediately.
The ministers said the process for signing up had been refined in preparation for the next stage of the vaccine rollout.
"The threshold for a patient match has been lowered so that numbers don't have to be a 100 per cent match for people to create a MyDHR account," they said.
"The ACT Health team is also working with Services Australia to prospectively update Medicare for all patients who are currently in the ACT patient record system.
"This will mean more people can sign up for MyDHR online without needing to call the team first."
Callers to the service reported on Thursday still receiving a message that vaccines were only available to frontline workers. They also reported waits of up to 90 minutes and calls cutting out while on hold.
Ms Rachel Stephen-Smith told ABC radio IT specialists had resolved the issue early on Thursday. She encouraged people to request a call back service, rather than wait on hold.
For those who did opt to phone the ACT vaccination booking line or needed to instead, the ministers said its hours of operation were being expanded to 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.
"Telephone bookings have accounted for around 57 per cent of all vaccination appointments to date," they said.
"We have also increased staffing and updated the call back system to reduce wait times."
Mr Barr and Ms Stephen-Smith encouraged any Canberran with concerns or questions about COVID-19 vaccines to contact their GP or healthcare provider before they phoned the booking line.
Trapper's Bakery and the Shell Coles Express in Goulburn and the South Coast sites were identified as exposure locations after a Melbourne man travelled through there while on holiday with his family.
The owners of Trapper's Bakery made the decision to close for deep cleaning on Wednesday. Coles Express closed at 9:30pm on Tuesday for a deep clean and re-opened at 2am after it was completed.
"Anyone who lives in Jervis Bay, or has visited Jervis Bay since May 22, is asked to be especially vigilant for the onset of even the mildest of cold-like symptoms, and is urged to come forward immediately if they appear, then isolate until a negative result is received," NSW Health said in a statement.
"Additionally, anyone who has recently had symptoms should also get tested."
The positive case was tested on Tuesday after experiencing the onset of symptoms last Tuesday. This was the day after they drove back to Melbourne last Monday, before Victoria's stay-at-home measures took effect on Thursday.
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