Hundreds of Central Coast residents were left frustrated and angry over the weekend when their Pfizer vaccination appointments, many of which had been made months in advance, were diverted to HSC students in Sydney COVID hotspots.
Many furious residents, some of them essential workers, took to Facebook to vent their fury as Coast politicians slammed the move and criticisms poured in about the Federal Government’s failure to secure adequate vaccination supplies.
Paul Phillips of Jilliby was one of many to have their vaccination appointments at Gosford Hospital put on hold.
“I have just had both my Pfizer vaccination appointments cancelled,” Phillips said.
“I have had my appointments booked for a long time.
“The Central Coast is part of Greater Sydney for lockdown purposes but now they want to steal my Pfizer vaccine appointments as I am classed as regional Australia.
“I am very angry both my appointments have been cancelled; this is simply not good enough.”
His sentiments were echoed by hundreds of residents, who claimed the classification of the Coast as part of Greater Sydney or Regional varied according to the NSW Government’s whim.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on August 2 that the move was “in the best interest of public health”.
“Can I stress how important it is for us to get Year 12 students able to complete their HSC exams and make sure they have those qualifications they worked hard for,” she said.
“We know that for 16 to 18-year-olds that Pfizer is the only option.
“All of us are making a sacrifice, and if it means that some people wait a few extra weeks before they get their Pfizer, I think people would appreciate that.”
Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said we would not be in a “Hunger Games situation” if the Federal Government had secured enough Pfizer for NSW.
Crouch said those waiting for their second Pfizer dose would not be impacted and nor would frontline workers.
He reminded residents that anyone aged 18 and over is eligible for an AstraZeneca vaccine; these are to be offered at Gosford Hospital from August 5.
While NSW Health has announced GPs will continue to administer Pfizer vaccinations in regional NSW, Shadow Minister for Central Coast and Wyong MP, David Harris, said the Central Coast was part of the Greater Sydney lockdown because of the risk of population movement.
“At the same time we’re getting a mixed message because Central Coast Health District is classified as a regional health district, so we are losing our vaccine.
“It’s not fair, they can’t have it both ways.
“Our people are vulnerable because of that population movement from Sydney and that means we have to have the Pfizer vaccine for those vulnerable people in our community.
“It’s not good enough that Central Coast people are missing out through no fault of their own and that the State Government doesn’t seem to have any solutions other than blaming the Federal Government.”
The Entrance MP, David Mehan, said the decision to take away vaccinations from the Central Coast undermined the most important thing we need to maintain throughout the pandemic – community solidarity, and community support.
“It’s not good enough for the Premier to stand up every single morning and tell people the way out of lockdown and the way moving forward is to be vaccinated and at the same time people have this vaccination appointments cancelled,” he said.
The Government’s failure to include teachers as essential workers was also a concern to many who received their cancellation notices over the weekend.
Spokesperson for the Central Coast Council of P&C Associations, Sharryn Brownlee, said “the HSC matters, but nowhere near as much as lives matter, but the HSC certainly does not matter more for some students than for others, as appears to be the case”.
“The allocation of the Central Coast in with Greater Sydney for the lockdown, and then inexplicably in with regions for the removal of vaccines, leaves residents feeling confused and frustrated,” she said.
Another resident said: “I was due to get my first shot on Wednesday, I’ve had it booked for 10 weeks, but that’s been cancelled.
“The irony is that I teach Year 12 students in Sydney and was supposed to be down there doing my ‘essential services’ job in two weeks teaching and supervising trial HSC exams”.
Member for Dobell, Emma McBride, said many Coasties had already been waiting for more than 60 days to get vaccinated, and now have to wait even longer.
“What’s even more frustrating is some of these people are Year 12 teachers who work in Sydney, and healthcare workers who are at serious risk of the virus,” she said.
“The Central Coast has been locked down with the rest of Sydney for the last six weeks because of the outbreak.
“It doesn’t make sense that our region is considered ‘at risk’ and we’re being told to get vaccinated, but our vaccine supplies are now being taken away,” McBride said.
Sue Murray and Terry Collins