OVER-50s now have access to COVID-19 vaccinations, with phase 2A of the vaccine rollout brought forward to this week.
As of yesterday, people aged 50 years and over can receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at respiratory clinics like Inglis Medical Centre in Sale, and state and territory vaccination clinics.
Most participating general practices will have the vaccine from May 17, although some will have it earlier.
To help fast-track the rollout, 16 high-volume vaccination centres are opening across Victoria this week - including one at Traralgon Racecourse, managed by Latrobe Regional Health.
Bookings are essential at the high-volume Traralgon centre and can be made by phoning 1800 675 398.
A number of these open access centres will offer a clear pathway to the Pfizer vaccine strictly for those eligible to receive it.
The Pfizer vaccine is supply limited and prioritised for eligible people under the age of 50 in phase 1a and 1b of the Commonwealth's program, in line with advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
State Health Minister Martin Foley said the best way people could support Victoria's recovery from COVID-19 was to take the opportunity to be vaccinated as they were eligible.
"We've worked hard to have 22 sites open to the eligible public by [Monday], and there'll be more to come.
"Initially, we are asking Victorians to phone up and book if you aren't headed to a high-volume vaccination centre."
Many of those only eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine will choose to be vaccinated at their local respiratory clinic or participating GP.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vast majority of general practices would begin vaccinating from May 17.
But a Sale Clocktower Medical Centre spokesperson said bookings were now open there for phase 2A of the rollout, and people were able to be vaccinated from this week.
Those aged over 50, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 18 and other critical and high risk workers are eligible.
Those in 2A join people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients aged over 55, other health care workers and critical and high risk workers including defence and emergency service personnel and meat processing workers in being able to access the vaccine.
The broadening of patient criteria reflects changes to the rollout schedule announced by the federal government on April 21.
Clocktower Medical Centre is delivering the AstraZeneca vaccination, and has reported some patients are deferring the COVID-19 vaccination because they are unsure or nervous after recent reports of rare complications in a small number of patients.
The clinic's doctors urge these people to speak with them regarding their concerns and questions, adding it was imperative vaccination was taken up by the majority of the community to ensure Australia is protected from more COVID-19 outbreaks in the future.
It says it has not had any serious side effects reported by any patients who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommends the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over AstraZeneca in adults aged under 50 years.
The recommendation is based on the increasing risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in older adults (and hence a higher benefit from vaccination) and a potentially very rare but increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following AstraZeneca vaccine in those under 50 years.
AstraZeneca can be used in adults aged under 50 years where the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks for that individual, and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.
People who have had the first dose of AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 50 years.
The COVID-19 vaccination must be separated by two weeks from any other vaccinations, including the flu vaccinations.
More information about bookings and locations, visit vic.gov.au/vaccine.
For more information about the Commonwealth's vaccination program, visit health.gov.au.