As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout expands to include younger South Australians, rapid changes to eligibility criteria are causing confusion for patients and staff at one Adelaide clinic.
- Two 15-year-olds were turned away from the Noarlunga Centre vaccination clinic this week
- They were both eligible under recent changes to the vaccine rollout and were able to book online
- SA Health says it has asked for the Commonwealth online booking system to be changed so that 12-15 year-olds cannot make appointments
On Monday, the eligibility rules were expanded to include people aged 12 and over who are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, or who have an eligible underlying medical condition.
This change has been reflected on the SA Health website and on the federal government’s online eligibility checker.
Jess, who did not want her surname used, booked a vaccination appointment online for her 15-year-old son after learning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 12 and over had become eligible.
She used the federal government’s online COVID-19 vaccination eligibility checker and booked her son an appointment at the state-run Noarlunga clinic.
When they arrived at the clinic on Wednesday, she was told her son was not eligible because he was under 16.
Jess spoke to a supervisor at the clinic.
She said they told her that her son was eligible under the national guidelines, but not SA Health’s.
“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 at 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 line confirmed that her son was indeed eligible.
Jess made an appointment at a different clinic, but her son will have to wait until next week to have his vaccination.
“To say he was disappointed was an understatement,” she said.
Jess said her son felt “hurt and confused about the whole situation as 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 surname used.
She made an appointment online for her 15-year-old son to attend the Noarlunga clinic during the week.
Her son has muscular dystrophy, one of the eligible underlying medical conditions listed on SA Health’s website.
When they arrived at the clinic, she was told the same thing as Jess – that her son was eligible under the national guidelines, but not SA Health’s.
She said the experience was “quite frustrating”.
“I worked from home that day, I kept my son home from school that day … so we sort of wasted a day,” she said.
Skye also rang the SA COVID-19 information line but was put on hold and had to hang up before they answered her call.
She was left confused and unsure about whether to book her son in again.
In a statement issued on Friday, SA Health said it had asked for the online booking system to be changed to stop South Australians aged 12 to 15 from booking an appointment.
“We requested the Commonwealth COVID-19 vaccination booking system to not allow bookings for 12-to-15-year-olds in South Australia while we ensure our clinics have appropriately trained staff and resources to support the service,” it said.
SA Health said it would communicate any changes to existing bookings for children aged 12 to 15.
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