From next week, GP clinics across Australia will be offering the COVID-19 vaccine to Australians aged over 70, as well as critical and high-risk workers such as those in defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.
Adults with disabilities and some medical conditions are also in this group.
So if it is your turn, how will it work?
How to find a clinic
First, you need to find a clinic offering COVID-19 vaccinations.
Not all GPs will be giving the jab, but you can check here — once you have clicked through the prompts — to find an eligible GP near you.
The ABC has been told of GP clinics being inundated with calls — with some GP clinics unaware they were even involved in the rollout — so it is best to check the website, and see if you’re actually eligible, before you call.
In response to the chaotic opening, the federal government this week announced 100 Commonwealth vaccination clinics to “expand capacity” to give the jab.
But again, not all GP clinics are involved in this stage of the rollout, and there are strict parametres on who can get the jab and when.
Making an appointment
You will need to make an appointment before turning up for your jab.
If the GP practice you’re going to already uses an online system for booking appointments you can use that to book a slot.
The government’s vaccine clinic finder shows which GP practices have online booking systems, and has links to them.
If the clinic you want to go to does not have its own online booking system, you will need to call them to make a booking.
The government’s website shows the phone numbers of all the clinics currently involved in the vaccination program, once you’ve clicked through the eligibility criteria.
The Department of Health website does not have an online booking system of its own where you can book your jab.
And remember, you can only book an appointment for a COVID-19 shot if you meet the rollout criteria.
On Monday, people in group 1b will start to be vaccinated. That’s elderly people not living in care facilities and people in priority professions.
To check whether you are eligible, you can use the government’s eligibility tracker.
I’m not in group 1B. Can I book my jab yet?
No. You can currently only book your vaccination if you are in group 1b.
Australia still has a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, so the program is first vaccinating people in priority occupations and those most at risk of developing severe disease if they contract the virus.
More than 1,000 general practices will join the vaccination program on Monday and begin vaccinating eligible people.
As the program expands and more vaccines become available, the number of clinics involved will increase.
The government said more than 4,000 GP clinics would be vaccinating people by the end of April.
According to the Department of Health, over 100 aboriginal health services and 130 government-operated GP-led respiratory clinics would also be progressively added as vaccine providers.
How to prepare
It might not be your regular GP who gives you your vaccine, so if you have questions about getting the jab, be sure to discuss them with your GP before your vaccine appointment.
If you want to look over the consent form you’ll be asked to sign, you can find it here.
If you are expecting to get the vaccine in one of the earlier groups because you have an underlying health condition or work in a priority profession, you may need to provide proof of your eligibility.
To show you are eligible, you may need to provide proof of your health status, through your My Health Record, a referral from a health professional if required or a declaration form to show you work in a certain industry.
In order to get your vaccination certificate, you will be asked for your Medicare details, so make sure those are up to date.
If you are not eligible for Medicare, you can still be vaccinated, and can get an immunisation certificate through Services Australia.
Fashion might not be at the forefront of your mind, but remember to wear a t-shirt or something that will allow access to your upper arm, as there might be limited privacy in the clinic.
If you’re interested to find out more about the ingredients in the vaccine, potential side effects or the approval process in Australia for vaccines, you can find out more about the jabs here.
What happens after I’m vaccinated?
Everyone who gets vaccinated must wait for 15 minutes before leaving the clinic to make sure there are no immediate side effects, such as an allergic reaction.
Minor side effects are common, such as pain or redness where you received the vaccination, joint pain, a mild fever or headache.
If you are concerned about possible side effects, you can use the government’s online symptom checker to see what to do.
What happens at the clinics?
Sydney GP Brian Morton has been setting up a special vaccine clinic in a spare room next to his surgery on Sydney’s lower north shore.
“The first thing we did was to look for space, because we need to separate it from our normal daily, sick patients,” he said.
“So that healthy patients can come in quickly and efficiently, to get the vaccine.”
There’s a dedicated check-in area where people will fill in the proper COVID-19 vaccine forms. Then people getting the jab will head to a special waiting area until it’s their turn.
Patients will go to a separate room where the shots will be administered.
Elaine Briggs, 90, lives at home and has been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccines to be rolled out by GPs so she can get hers.
“I’ve been coming to this GP surgery for 30 years so it will be good to come here and get my vaccine,” she said.
“It’s a good thing we have the vaccines, so when it’s my turn, I will be very happy to have it.”
Dr Morton said setting up the clinic had been a “complicated logistical exercise”.
“I’d like to incorporate other local doctors to bolster our roster and do the community a good general practice service,” he said.
They are hoping to eventually vaccinate 1,000 people a week, which equates to about 10 per hour for seven days.
But for now, they will only receive 400 doses a week, which they have offered to people in group 1b.
Dr Morton’s clinic is already receiving more enquiries about the COVID-19 vaccine than it can manage.
To take pressure off staff at the practice, they recently changed the message on their phone system to ask patients over the age of 70 not to call the clinic to ask about booking in for the vaccine.
Instead, they contacted everyone of that age on their books to offer them an appointment.
Staff then called anyone who didn’t respond to the email so that they had made contact with all the relevant patients.
All of their appointments over the next few weeks are now booked up.
They have had confirmation they will receive their first batch of doses on Friday, and will start vaccinating people on Monday.