The NSW State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad is initiating a crackdown investigation via Strike Force Alioth (yes, these are all real names) after approximately 60 individuals received priority COVID-19 vaccinations that were reserved for health care workers.

NSW Police believe that individuals were contacted with links via the social media app WeChat and convinced to pay $300 for priority vaccine links. Approximately 60 people in total visited the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown claiming to be essential workers. NSW Health was alerted to something going awry after these individuals failed to prove their essential worker status.

Last week, the NSW government set aside priority vaccine appointments for authorised essential workers in LGAs of concern, aged 16 and over.

“The bookings were made through an online NSW Health vaccination booking service, with some users required to pay a fee prior to attending the hospital,” NSW Police said in a press release.

“Initial inquiries suggest the opportunity to receive a priority vaccination was circulated through the social media application WeChat.”

Cybercrime Squad Commander Detective Matthew Craft addressed the media on Thursday about Strike Force Alioth’s ongoing investigations into the matter.

“On Friday, August 13, NSW Health identified a number of anomalies in relation to the COVID vaccine rollout,” Craft said.

“What was identified was individuals were turning up to a hospital in Camperdown wanting their COVID vaccination, purporting to be essential health care workers… and when asked to verify their status they were unable to do so.”

According to Craft’s current investigations, there are approximately 60 individuals who made vaccination applications, with some of them allegedly being scammed into paying $300 for the vaccine. (All COVID vaccinations in Australia are completely free regardless of visa status or Medicare.)

“The investigation to date has identified approximately 60 individuals who have applied for vaccination and received some degree of priority by claiming in the system that they were essential health care workers when in fact they were not entitled to make those claims,” said Craft.

During Thursday’s media address, NSW Police Minister David Elliott called out the “selfish and sickening” scheme.

“We have reached a new level of selfishness when we have people who want to capitalise on community anxiety at the expense of nurses and our essential healthcare workers,” he said.

Police are asking anyone who used a booking link to come forward.

All adult Aussies (yep, even if those of us under 40) are currently able to get the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine through a GP. Click here to see which clinics are offering it, and talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Alternatively, you can triple-check to see if you’re eligible for the Pfizer vaccine here.

The best vaccine is the first one you can get, and that’ll be our ticket out of this mess.

Image: Getty Images / Norbert Millauer