Bookings are now underway for over 70s and others in high-risk groups to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, and most will be done through traditional GP clinics.
But the government is also opening more than 100 clinics that will be capable of delivering an average of 1,000 vaccinations each, per week.
The extra clinics will ease pressure on GPs and give more options to people who do not have access to Medicare.
COVID vaccines aren’t just available from GPs
The federal government has released a list of more than 1,000 GP clinics that are available to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in phase 1B — even if the list caught some practices by surprise.
But the list also includes more than 100 Commonwealth clinics, which were set up in the weeks and months after COVID-19 became a pandemic.
They’re formally known as Commonwealth GP-led respiratory clinics, and they’ve been operating as local go-to spots for people with COVID-19 symptoms.
“[The] clinics, which were initially set up to do COVID-19 testing, and are now pivoting to roll out the vaccines in communities right across the country,” deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said.
According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, the clinics will be allotted with up to 2,000 doses per week, with an average of 1,000 vaccine doses each.
Can I book now?
Hold off for a few more hours yet.
The list of clinics was first released alongside a list of participating GPs on Wednesday, but the commonwealth vaccination clinics will not begin accepting bookings until Friday March 19.
Mr Hunt said some smaller GP clinics may choose to prioritise existing patients before taking on new ones, but he said the Commonwealth clinics “will take all comers” — provided they meet the criteria for stage 1B.
Professor Kidd said that would include people who don’t have a Medicare card.
“People who don’t have a Medicare card are able to get their vaccines either through the state and territory hubs, which have already been established, or through one of the Commonwealth GP-led respiratory clinics,” he said.
Where’s my nearest Commonwealth clinic?
A full list of the clinics has been published by the Department of Health here.
The government says the list will grow over the coming weeks.
The government is calling for patience
The announcement from the government on Wednesday that GPs were ready to take bookings caused a stir — particularly among GPs who were unaware the government was about to open the floodgate of bookings.
The number of unprepared GPs was compounded by an influx in calls from people eager to book their jab.
It prompted calls for calm from Professor Kidd.
And while there have been frustrations from both patients and doctors over the booking process for GP clinics, the Queensland head of the Royal Australian College of GPs, Bruce Willett, said booking through your regular doctor should still be a preferred option.
“If their usual GP doesn’t have the vaccine now, I would actually suggest they consider waiting till they do, because their usual GP knows them,” he said.
“There’s been concerns about allergies and other things, so your usual GP will be aware of those — that’s going to be the better thing.”
The Commonwealth clinics are operated by GPs but established and coordinated by the federal government, making it more likely they have a heads-up that bookings will commence on Friday.
“I am very pleased that we have had high public interest,” Mr Hunt said.