As daily Omicron case numbers skyrocket, and parents anticipate sending children back to school, the federal government has promised enough vaccine supply for all children to access a first dose by early February.
Children aged five to 11 are now eligible for the new Pfizer paediatric formula. However, both clinics and families seeking the jab have reported widespread disruptions.
With booking systems glitching across NSW, and some clinics still waiting on deliveries of doses, families have reported a frantic search for vaccine appointments at state government clinics or general practitioners.
Guardian Australia asked readers to share their experience of trying to get children vaccinated. Almost 150 reader responses show that, across states, complications in the rollout of first vaccine doses for children is rife. And the families able to access the jab seem aware they are “the lucky ones”.
“Both appointments were cancelled. The doctor personally called me to cancel and was upset and said he had been on the phone to the government department “all day”. The pharmacy representative I spoke to, to confirm cancellation, was also upset and said the lack of stock was “a disgrace”.
“Although my son doesn’t come under an approved medical condition, he has had a severe illness related to the flu previously and I have kept him at home on doctors advice, thus getting him vaccinated ASAP has been imperative. The appointment I finally made which did not cancel was a 45-minute drive from my home. The government should be ashamed.”
“I had a booking with a state vaccination hub on the 11th. Got a message a couple of days beforehand to say that it was cancelled, and that someone from the department of health would contact me within three days to rebook. They did call, told there had been an issue with the online booking system creating non-existent bookings. They told me they could find me another appointment in a week or so – in Melton (1hr 20 away), or in Wodonga (almost four hours away). I said no thanks.
“Next I booked through a GP (an hour away from me – the only place I could find that had bookings with less than about two weeks wait time). They cancelled two days later, due to inability to confirm supply. I then rang a local pharmacy on the 10th (they wouldn’t take bookings prior, due to supply issues), got a booking on the 11th, now my son’s just had his first vaccination.”
“Our boys are autistic so initially we wanted to get them booked into a low-sensory clinic, but the only one accessible was booked out until April. Next best option was our GP, but they were booked out until March. We were apprehensive about how they would cope but we were able to book appointments for them at a local clinic pretty easily so we went for it.
“Had the jabs done today, stretched the boys to their sensory limit but they made it through it. I know they’ll be anxious next time though, it was noisy and busy and a long wait – really not the best environment for people who really get overwhelmed. They are super proud of having got their jabs. Top-notch little citizens.”
“Well before Christmas, the day that the rollout for children was announced to be commencing, from the 4th of Jan, we called our local pharmacy and booked for the 10th for our two children, seven and nine years old.
“On Monday the pharmacy advised us they had to cancel as they had not received any vaccine and that the next first available appointment was now not until 28 February.
“My wife went to four different pharmacies that day. Same story, no supply, no available bookings until late Feb at earliest.
“Cannot tell you how much anger this has generated. We did the right thing, booked weeks in advance and if our appointment had been met both kids would have been fully vaxxed within a couple of weeks of school starting. Now we’re looking at March or April at earliest.
“Like everything else that the Morrison government has been involved in to do with vaccine rollouts, it has been a complete and utter debacle.”
“Had to call around a dozen doctors. Most don’t answer as they’re too busy, goes straight to answer-phone. Finally found somewhere two hours south at chemist. Then a friend put me on to somewhere closer at a GP on the 29th. By the sounds, there are no vaccines yet in Coffs Harbour, or RAT tests. It’s a circus.”
“I have tried everywhere to make a booking. Despite appearing on the vaccine finder website, none of my local GPs or pharmacists are doing kids under 12. The two central Brisbane Queensland Health clinics that do that age group require appointments to be made, but there are no appointments available within the next month.
“There might be enough stock of the vaccine but there is clearly a shortage of trained staff to put the vaccine into young kids’ arms. There seems to be no way of getting even a first dose before school goes back, unless they change things radically.”
“I was telephoned by the surgery on Friday to say they had been expecting delivery that day and it hadn’t arrived. They said they’d be working overtime to fit children in once they received the vaccine and they’d call to rebook as soon as it arrived – they were hopeful it would be early this week (haven’t heard from them yet).
“My daughter is only 11 but starts high school in the city this year with a long public transport commute, so I wanted to make sure she was given the earliest opportunity to build some protection before the school term starts (which is why I booked as early as I could). So I called around a number of local(ish) GPs and pharmacies on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and all said they hadn’t received any of the children’s vaccine.
“I turned to the NSW vaccine booking website and tried to grab a spot at any of the vaccine centres. I clicked on an available spot for this Thursday and it was gone by the time I’d filled in the online form.
“I managed to secure a booking for today (Tuesday) at a new vaccine hub an hour and a half drive from where I live. My husband’s car broke down on the way to take my daughter for the appointment!!! And I rushed out and collected her and made it to the clinic only a bit past our allotted time. We were not missing this for anything!
“The vaccine centre was so quiet. It was accepting walk-in adults and there was a slow but steady stream with no wait time. We saw at most 10 children in the half an hour we were there. Either they had made a decision to make the process as smooth as possible for the young children (which it really was – it was so easy and the staff were wonderful) or they didn’t have the supplies for more.
“I remind myself we’re the lucky ones. There are so many families who don’t have the luxury of going to the lengths I did to get their children vaccinated. I hope we start to see some evidence of better planning and decision making from our elected officials.”