A woman who says she has been turned away from the eight GP practices at Dubbo offering the COVID jab wants Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton to advocate for a boost to vaccine supplies in country communities.
Retiree Cheryl Breen, 61, and her husband Tom Breen, 71, are eligible for the jab under phase 1b of the national vaccine rollout and eager to get it.
But discussions with staff at the eight GP practices have convinced Mrs Breen that they are "prioritising" their own patients eligible for the jab under 1b, and hamstrung by a small supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Mr and Mrs Breen, who are not patients of any one of the eight GP practices, have not been able to secure an appointment to get the jab.
"We are frustrated as we are among the people who want to get it done, the government is campaigning for people to get it done, yet out here we can't get it done," Mrs Breen said.
Mr and Mrs Breen, former health sector workers at Dubbo, call the rollout of the COVID jab in the Dubbo region "disgraceful and incompetent".
"We are calling on Mark Coulton to actively get vaccines out to the regions," Mrs Breen said.
"Every time I listen to the news and they talk about getting the vaccines out, it's always about the cities. I've not heard one sentence from any politician about regional areas."
Mrs Breen is also suggesting Dubbo needs a mass vaccination clinic for the general public at the city's public hospital or another large venue.
"It seems to be happening in the cities so why is it not happening in regional communities?," she said.
The retiree says there is a "lack of information out here about getting the vaccine".
Her quest for the jab has included calls to the Western NSW Local Health District and Dubbo's GP-led respiratory clinic.
On Friday Minister Coulton suggested the couple try again.
"The GP-led respiratory clinic in Brisbane Street will be providing vaccinations from May 3 to those eligible for phase 1a and 1b," he said.
"I encourage Mrs Breen and her husband to arrange an appointment with the respiratory clinic to receive their vaccinations should they not find an appointment locally before then."
Mr Coulton said the federal government was partnering with more than 4500 GP practices, GP-led respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community controlled health services.
"Nearly 1500 of these primary care vaccine sites are in our regional, rural and remote areas," he said.
"As with any logistical exercise of this scale, there are challenges along the way and vaccine supply is one such challenge.
"This supply challenge means some people may have to wait a bit longer than others to receive their vaccination but rest assured, everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated."
Changes to the vaccine rollout approved by the National Cabinet on Thursday include allowing people aged 50 and over in the 2a phase to get the jab at a state clinic or federally-funded respiratory clinic from May 3, or GPs from May 17.
The over-50s will be offered AstraZeneca while Pfizer will be kept for people under the age of 50 or eligible for it under phase 1a.
"The fact Australia has remained largely COVID-free recently, allows us to take the time and patience required to get this process right," Mr Coulton said.
"With phases 1a and 1b currently open for priority populations to receive their vaccination, I encourage all eligible residents to discuss their options with their GP and to get vaccinated when one is available."
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