Canberra's COVID-19 vaccination booking systems were being inundated on Thursday, the first day people aged between 40 and 49 were eligible under the ACT's rollout program.
As at 1.30pm, more than 1300 people had called the territory's vaccine lines to book in for a Covid vaccine. ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith described the number of calls as "massive".
Those in the mainstream phone queue dealt with average wait times of more than three hours, while those in the disability booking queue or who needed help with the online portal only had to wait a couple of minutes. Authorities were encouraging Canberrans to use the vaccine booking call-back service rather than wait.
Ms Stephen-Smith was among those in the 40 to 49 cohort who received a Covid vaccine on Thursday, as was the territory's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman.
Ms Stephen-Smith told media at the Garran mass vaccination centre that the clinic would be able to operate "pretty close to full capacity" for the next few weeks. The clinic was the only place Canberrans could get the Pfizer vaccine, so it was where the bulk of 40 to 49s would get their Covid vaccinations.
"Our forward projection of Commonwealth deliveries of the vaccine is around 6000 to 7000 doses a week, [and] we do have some additional doses in stock already," she said.
"Then we are looking to open a second hub in the next few weeks as well, but this will be dependent on supply in terms of how many appointments we can make."
Ms Stephen-Smith was tight-lipped on the details of the territory's next Pfizer vaccine hub, but said more information about it would be coming soon.
She said that as at 11.30am on Thursday, there were still some Covid vaccination appointments available at Garran for this coming weekend, but she expected those spots would fill quickly.
The minister flagged there had been a couple of glitches with Canberra's Covid vaccine booking systems on the first day of people aged 40 to 49 being eligible for a vaccine.
Authorities later explained that, for about 20 minutes on Thursday morning, an automated message incorrectly stated the main vaccine booking line was closed. Another technical error meant calls to the booking line were diverted to an incorrect message and then terminated. That issue had been resolved within 20 minutes.
The Commonwealth's COVID-19 vaccine eligibility tracker was also not recognising Canberrans aged 40 to 49 as eligible throughout Thursday. An ACT Health spokesman said it had made the federal government aware of the issue, and expected it to be resolved soon.
Ms Stephen-Smith said she knew of people in the Canberra community who were under 50 and preferred to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine over the Pfizer vaccine.
She said those people should have a conversation with their general practitioner about the AstraZeneca vaccine, given the recommendation against under 50s getting it.
She encouraged anyone who was over 50 and concerned about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine to have "a really good look" at the health advice surrounding it, and to talk to their trusted health professional.
Ms Stephen-Smith said ACT authorities needed to see the detail of the Commonwealth's plan to ramp up vaccine supply before they planned the further expansion of the territory's vaccination program; a point ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr reiterated.
"As we get more supply [and] we have more confidence about what's coming, then we'll be in a position to make some further announcements in the coming weeks and months to expand access," Mr Barr said.
"When we announced today [that] 40 to 49-year-olds [were eligible to be vaccinated], the first questions I was getting were, 'What about people under 40?'," he said.
"So, we're aware of that, we will continue to focus on the effective and efficient and safe delivery of the vaccination program."
The Chief Minister said he was working on organising his own Covid vaccination now that he was eligible as part of the new cohort, and it had been a struggle because his diary was "a nightmare".
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