A bunch of Canberrans who are under 50 and ineligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine have managed to skip the queue after rogue text messages started doing the rounds.
The text messages were written in plain English (unlike official ACT Government messages, which are more formal) and contained the booking phone number needed to get the jab, which is something that only health authorities can give out.
According to The Canberra Times, one such message read: “Hey, super weird message but Garran Surge Centre has an excess of Pfizer this weekend and are offering them to the general public.”
The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at -70°C, and without specialised equipment, it can only be stored for 35 days, tops.
In the US, it’s become somewhat of a common occurrence for younger people to line up outside clinics at the end of the day to use up vaccines that are about to expire.
Some people argue that those vaccines might otherwise end up in the bin, and by skipping the queue they’re helping build herd immunity in their communities.
Regardless, invitations such as the text messages which spread around Canberra are not official.
“We are aware an SMS has been circulating to groups of people advising them to contact the COVID-19 booking line to book an appointment at the Garran Surge Centre,” an ACT Government spokesperson told SBS News.
“This SMS has been sent to people who are not eligible under phase 1a or 1b to receive a vaccine. This is not an ACT Government endorsed message.
“It appears some people who received this SMS booked an appointment and received Pfizer vaccines at the Garran Surge Centre over the [Anzac Day] weekend.”
The Garran Surge Centre is a temporary facility that was set up by the ACT Government to cope with the pandemic. It’s not as if some private clinic is just flogging random COVID-19 jabs to the highest bidder.
Interestingly, the news comes not long after the federal government announced that it wanted to redirect stock of the Pfizer vaccine to under-50s after blood clot fears slowed down the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still recommended for people over 50.
It’s still early days in figuring out what exactly went wrong in Canberra, if anything. An investigation is now underway.