As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout expands to include young South Australians, rapid changes in eligibility criteria are confusing for patients and staff at a clinic in Adelaide.
- Two 15-year-olds were turned away from the vaccination clinic in the Noarlunga center this week
- They were both eligible under recent vaccine rollout changes and were able to book online
- SA Health says it has requested that the Commonwealth’s online booking system be changed so 12-15 year olds cannot book appointments
On Monday, the eligibility rules were expanded to include people aged 12 and older who are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, or who have an eligible underlying health condition.
This change has been reflected on the SA Health website and the federal government’s online eligibility checker.
Jess, who didn’t want his last name used, made an online vaccination appointment for her 15-year-old son after learning that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders aged 12 and older were become eligible.
She used the federal government’s online COVID-19 vaccination eligibility checker and made an appointment for her son at the Noarlunga public clinic.
When they arrived at the clinic on Wednesday, he was told his son was not eligible because he was under 16.
Jess spoke to a clinic supervisor.
She said they told her that her son was eligible according to the national guidelines, but not those of SA Health.
“I said, ‘Our community elders told us we were eligible, our GP told us we were eligible,” “Jess said.
Jess asked the supervisor if she could speak to someone from SA Health and they gave her the number for the SA COVID-19 information line.
When she rang, the person on the other end of the phone confirmed that her son was indeed eligible.
Jess has made an appointment at another clinic, but her son will have to wait until next week to get the shot.
“To say he was disappointed was an understatement,” she said.
Jess said her son felt “hurt and confused about the whole situation because he is doing exactly what we have been asked to do for the community.”
“It’s not so much even for us, but what happens when other people come forward,” she said.
A similar situation happened to Skye, who also did not want her last name to be used.
She made an online appointment for her 15-year-old son to come to Noarlunga clinic during the week.
Her son has muscular dystrophy, one of the eligible underlying medical conditions listed on the SA Health website.
When they arrived at the clinic, she was told the same as Jess – that her son was eligible according to the national guidelines, but not those of SA Health.
She said the experience was “quite frustrating”.
“I worked from home that day, kept my son home from school that day… so we kind of lost a day,” she said.
Skye also called the SA COVID-19 information line but was put on hold and had to hang up before answering her call.
She remained confused and uncertain about whether to book her son again.
In a statement on Friday, SA Health said it had called for the online booking system to be changed to prevent South Australians between the ages of 12 and 15 from making an appointment.
“We have asked the Commonwealth COVID-19 Vaccination Booking System not to allow bookings for 12-15 year olds in South Australia while we ensure our clinics have properly trained staff and resources to support the service, ”he said.
SA Health said it will communicate any changes to existing bookings for children aged 12 to 15.
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