Brenda Holt would have been at the front of the line to get her COVID vaccination this morning, except there was no line.
Brenda walked right on in to Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building vaccination hub, got her jab and left with a tear in her eye as she moved a tiny step closer to being able to visit her family in Texas.
Anyone over the age of 50 can now get the AstraZeneca vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic but, in Melbourne at least, it was a seemingly slow start.
Wait times of under 15 minutes were being reported for people who arrived without an appointment at all of the high-volume vaccination centres in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat this morning.
By midday, wait times had stretched to more than an hour at the Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.
The state health department said the Royal Exhibition Building was booked out for appointments, and it was experiencing very high call volumes through its vaccine phone booking service.
Brenda expected more people to be waiting in line early to get the jab when the centres opened.
“I just am shocked and really disappointed,” Brenda said.
“I think that we’re in a bit of a bubble here in Australia, we don’t understand how devastating it’s been, and it’s not real to us.
“We’ve been so lucky and we’ve handled this so well until the vaccination rollout, I have no idea why it’s taken so long.”
Jeroen Weimar, Victoria’s COVID-19 Response Commander, said by lunchtime, 8,500 people had called the COVID-19 hotline to make a booking.
“At the moment, what we’re seeing is a really healthy demand for people coming out who want to get vaccinated,” he said.
“Everybody who’s got an appointment today will be vaccinated today. Everyone in line will get a vaccination today.”
If the queues were too long at the end of the day, Mr Weimar said people would be asked to come back the next day.
The Box Hill Hospital vaccination centre, in Melbourne’s east, was very busy in the morning and some people were asked to go to a nearby clinic at Ringwood East, Mr Weimar said.
He said there were wait times of up to 90 minutes for some people who had not booked appointments at the large vaccination centres.
With a staff of 700 people handling the calls, he said the operation would be scaled up as appropriate.
“We will quite happily put hundreds more people into the phone lines if the demand is there to book vaccinations,” Mr Weimar said.
“My request for Victorians would be, if you’re eligible, come forward now so we can get you vaccinated.
“Let’s have a really busy few weeks and months and then we can get on and get the rest of the community done.”
So far, 520,000 Victorians have received their first dose of a vaccine.
There are now six high-volume vaccination hubs operating in Victoria, at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the former Ford Factory in Geelong, the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and Mercure Ballarat.
Another 15 vaccination centres have opened today at these locations:
(* Phone bookings only initially, no walk-ins)
Another mass vaccination hub will open tomorrow at the Cranbourne Turf Club.
There are about two million Victorians now eligible to get the COVID vaccination.
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