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Less than half of eligible year 12 students booked in for first jab

Hannah Minoy with her father Minoy Mathew outside the Qudos Bank Arena.

Hannah Minoy with her father Minoy Mathew outside the Qudos Bank Arena.Credit:James Brickwood

Humzah Ghaffar from Greenacre, who is in year 11 but sitting his HSC business studies course this year, felt the same. While he was mostly staying home anyway, he said the jab offered him an “extra level of security”.

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“I definitely feel safer being vaccinated,” he said. “I thought it was helpful, it’s a lot simpler streamlining vaccinations [like this].”

But others have expressed frustration as they struggled to make appointments. One mother in the Georges River area, whose daughter is in year 12, said almost half the families at her school were yet to be sent booking links. She said she made dozens of calls to NSW Health before she got through to the hotline and was told her daughter’s details were not available.

“The issue for me and the families I know is that the data sent by the schools has not been registered … It is a system breakdown,” she said. “We are actually extremely keen to book but being completely frustrated by the failure of the system and also the lack of published information and updates that we can access.”

Another year 12 student said he was the only one in his friendship group who had not received a link.

“It’s very stressful since there’s literally no place to seek help. I tried calling the vaccine hotline and waited for an hour before being quickly redirected to a number that doesn’t really work. My school has told me to wait till the end of today for any further action,” he said.

Humzah Ghaffar will sit his HSC business studies exam at Sydney Technical High School in Bexley.

Humzah Ghaffar will sit his HSC business studies exam at Sydney Technical High School in Bexley.Credit:James Brickwood

In a statement on Monday, the Western Sydney Local Health district told students who had not received a booking link to contact their school or the NSW Health Qudos Bank Arena Vaccination Centre on 1800 922 886. It said more than 20,000 links had been sent to students in hotspot areas over the weekend and on Monday.

Marshals greeted the year 12 students as they arrived at Sydney Olympic Park on Monday and students were given free parking, after a government decision late last week to scrap plans to transport students between their schools and Sydney Olympic Park by bus.

Several principals were worried that students who didn’t have cars, parents who could drive them, or access to public transport would no longer be able to get to Homebush, while others were concerned the message that transport was cancelled would not have reached students over the weekend.

NSW Labor has urged for a more local approach to increase vaccine uptake among year 12s. The lower house member for Macquarie Fields, Anoulack Chanthivong, said students in the Campbelltown and Liverpool areas should be able to get vaccinated at the new hub there.

“Convenient access to vaccinations is vital … This would significantly reduce travel times and help limit exposure at a time when we need to be doing whatever we can to get on top of this outbreak,” he said.

“Sadly, I expect that some of our more disadvantaged students would [be unlikely to] make the journey to Olympic Park and not get vaccinated at all.”

Western Sydney Local Health District’s chief executive Graeme Loy said the year 12 hub – which has enlisted more than 70 student volunteers from Western Sydney University to administer jabs – was “the first of its kind in NSW” and had been a team effort between the university, several government departments and Sydney Olympic Park.

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The year 12 vaccination program has used Pfizer doses redirected from regional local health districts, some of which have recently been exposed to COVID-19 and entered lockdown.

The state government promised all regional appointments would be rescheduled after the federal government brought forward a shipment of 180,000 Pfizer doses to this week, however affected locals said they had mostly not heard about when they would be able to re-book their shots.

Some Hunter-New England residents received a text on Saturday informing they would receive details within 72 hours.

With Mary Ward

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