From Monday, Australia will begin the next phase of the COVID-19 rollout, with millions more people eligible for the jab, including over-70s, people with underlying health conditions and Indigenous people over 55.
But the rollout hasn’t been seamless, with GPs complaining of poor communication with the government and patients eager for their shot facing delays in booking appointments.
Here’s how to book — and some of the most common questions people have asked us.
Where can I get my COVID-19 vaccination?
The first step is to find out whether you’re eligible for the vaccine.
Phase 1b includes people aged 70 and over, Indigenous people over 55 and people with underlying health conditions, along with critical or high-risk workers.
In conjunction with the rollout of vaccines to be available in GP clinics, the government released an eligibility tester, which will also tell you about GPs near you.
The tool doesn’t have an online booking feature though, so after finding a participating clinic near you, you’ll need to contact them yourself to book an appointment.
More than 1,000 GPs are taking part in the rollout.
You can find the one closest to you on the government eligibility tester or a full list of GPs providing the vaccine has been published on the health department’s website.
Can GPs choose who they vaccinate?
Several GPs have told the ABC they were blindsided by the government’s announcement on Wednesday that people in phase 1b could begin booking in a shot.
Readers who submitted their experiences via the ABC audience project said they’d faced GP offices that simply weren’t ready to accept bookings.
Some said they were unable to book appointments because their doctors were unsure of vaccine supplies, while others were worried they would not be able to get an appointment, as they were not regular patients of participating clinics.
Clinics are allowed to prioritise their existing patients but are required to bulk bill anybody they vaccinate, so the patient is not out of pocket.
More than 100 Commonwealth vaccination clinics will also be progressively set up around the country, which will take anybody, as long as they meet the criteria for phase 1b.
Yesterday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd pleaded for patience as the rollout picks up pace.
“We are only starting phase 1b next week and this will be running several weeks to come.”
How long will I have to wait for the vaccine?
The flurry of bookings to GP offices — some of which were unprepared — has led to some in phase 1b wondering how long it will be before they actually receive a shot.
The government has committed to an October timeframe, in which everybody who wants to be vaccinated has received at least their first shot by the end of that month.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the phase 1b vaccinations would run through to the middle of the year.
“It will take time for all of the eligible patients to receive their doses and appointments will progressively come online. These vaccinations will run through to the middle of the year,” he said.
Health authorities are relying on the local supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which is awaiting final approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration — to bolster supplies and accelerate the number of people being vaccinated each week.
Is the vaccine free?
The vaccine has always been pitched by the government as being free for all Australians, but some people have complained they attempted to book a vaccination with their GP, only to be told they had to first attend a consultation appointment which would not be bulk billed.
According to Mr Hunt, that’s a “clear breach” of the rules — and you should not expect to pay anything for your vaccination.
“The vaccines must be bulk billed,” he said.
The government amended the Medicare benefits schedule to cover GP’s costs associated with the vaccine, so nobody should pay before accessing it.
I’m in phase 1a — how come 1b is getting vaccinated before me?
Even though phase 1b is about to get underway, that doesn’t mean phase 1a is at an end.
The first phase covers the highest-priority groups like health workers and those in aged care.
But not everyone in those groups has been vaccinated yet.
Phase 1a was always designed to be ongoing after the introduction of other phases, so the vaccination of people in priority groups will continue.
“The 1a strategy is continuing and that started on the 22nd of February. Four weeks later, on the 22nd of March, the 1b strategy commences,” Mr Hunt said.
This story includes responses to the ABC’s audience project. You can submit your views and experiences below.