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Being immunised against coronavirus is one of five reasons Victorians are allowed to leave their houses under the latest lockdown in Victoria.

A rapidly moving COVID-19 cluster in Melbourne has prompted health authorities to widen the age restriction on who is allowed to get vaccinated to now include Victorians aged 40 to 49.

But speeding up the vaccine rollout in Victoria in a matter of days has not been without its teething problems as a record number of Victorians continue to be vaccinated against the virus each day.

People queue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination hub at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.Credit:Eddie Jim

Thousands of Victorians trying to book in their COVID-19 vaccines have been left frustrated as the state’s coronavirus hotlines repeatedly buckle under a deluge of calls.

The call centre is taking a record numbers of calls. On Thursday, it recorded 77,000 calls in a 15-minute window and state-run mass vaccine centres are immunising about 20,000 people a day against the virus.

Despite the problems with the booking system, Victoria broke its record for the most vaccine doses administered in a single day on Thursday. Health Department data shows there were 41,389 doses administered, breaking the previous record by more than 10,000.

Below is a guide on how to work out what vaccine you’re eligible to receive, how to book an appointment, and where to go for a walk-in vaccination.

How do I book in for a vaccine?

The state government set up a dedicated vaccination hotline on Friday morning after the coronavirus hotline crashed for several hours on Thursday amid overwhelming demand following its decision to offer vaccinations to those aged over 40.

The best way to to book in for your Pfizer or AstraZeneca shot is to call the Victorian government’s new COVID vaccination hotline on 1800 571 121.

However, Victorian health authorities have repeatedly warned that this hotline is receiving a high volume of calls and it may take several attempts to get through to an operator.

Professor Ben Cowie – who is leading Victoria’s vaccine rollout across 34 state-run vaccine clinics – urged people to be patient and keep calling the coronavirus hotline until they reached an operator.

“I would say if you are one of those tens of thousands of Victorians calling in at any one time, please, if you cannot get through, I’m sorry, but if you could possibly call back in the afternoon, ” Professor Cowie said on Friday.

A small number of Melbourne hospitals, including the Austin Hospital and Northern Hospital, have their own vaccination hotlines set-up with some Victorians reporting success in calling them directly to book in their Pfizer shots.

However, the government advice remains to call the state-run hotline and not call hospitals directly amid concerns it could lead to some vaccination centres being completely overrun.

Other major health services including The Alfred, which has a small on-site vaccine clinic, Western Health, which runs mass vaccine hubs at Sunshine Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds and St Vincent’s Hospital, which runs the major vaccine centre at the Royal Exhibition Building will only accept Pfizer shot bookings that are made via the state-run vaccine hotline.

The vast majority of general practitioners in Victoria are yet to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but this will change soon following a decision by Australia’s medical regulator that will allow the Pfizer vaccine to be stored in standard fridges for up to a month.

This means GPs will soon be allowed to administer Pfizer as well as AstraZeneca, taking some of the pressure off state-run mass clinics and freeing up the coronavirus hotline.

What Vaccine Am I Eligible For?

If you are between the ages of 40 and 49 you are eligible to receive the Pfizer shot at any state-run vaccination sites, but you must book your appointment in advance. Those aged over 50 must still book in for AstraZeneca appointments.

Can I get a vaccine without making an appointment?

If you are eligible for a Pfizer vaccine you must make an appointment before your vaccine due to more limited supply of the doses.

However, those above the age of 50 can get an AstraZeneca jab, either by appointment or walk-in. The Victorian government has a list of walk-in vaccination sites on its website here, as well as wait times, which are continually updated.

The availability of walk-in vaccinations is subject to change, depending on daily demand.

If you have already received your first shot you must receive the same vaccine type for your second shot.

For the Pfizer vaccine, you need to wait at least three weeks between doses, while for AstraZeneca it is recommended you wait 12 weeks between doses.

Here is a full list of mass clinics, which typically allow walk-ins for AstraZeneca vaccines

  • Ascot Vale, Melbourne Showgrounds
  • Ballarat, Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre
  • Bendigo, Bendigo Community Clinic
  • Broadmeadows, Broadmeadows Town Hall
  • Carlton, Royal Exhibition Building
  • Coburg, Coburg Uniting Church – Walk-ins not currently available
  • Cranbourne, Cranbourne Turf Club
  • Deer Park, IPC Health – Deer Park – Walk-ins not currently available
  • Epping, Northern Hospital
  • Heidelberg Heights, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital
  • Melbourne CBD, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
  • Ringwood, Ringwood East Community Clinic (Braeside Avenue) – Walk-ins not currently available
  • Shepparton, Shepparton Showgrounds
  • South Morang, Plenty Ranges Arts and Convention Centre
  • Springvale, Sandown Racecourse
  • St Albans, Sunshine Hospital
  • Traralgon East, Traralgon Racecourse
  • West Melbourne, West Melbourne – Cohealth
  • Wodonga, Wodonga Vaccination Hub

For more information, visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au/book-your-vaccine-appointment

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