The vaccine rollout in Australia has been so abysmal that some folks in Sydney have ended up paying hundreds of dollars to get the jab at private clinics, when the vaccines are actually free for everyone. Amid rising case numbers in NSW in particular, people are desperate to get vaccinated, and rightfully so.

AAP reports that two doctor’s clinics in the southwest Sydney suburb of Campsie were busted charging patients hundreds of dollars to get the Pfizer vaccine, even though it’s supposed to be free.

“I wanted to get it quickly, to be safer, so I paid the money,” one woman, who paid $250 for her first jab, told AAP in Mandarin. The second jab is supposed to cost $60.

The woman, who is a temporary visa holder in her 20s, doesn’t have access to Medicare. None of this should in theory affect whether or not someone can access the vaccine, which is meant to be free for everyone in Australia regardless of their situation.

But people are confused. There’s confusion about who can get the vaccine, where they can get the vaccine, and when they can get the vaccine.

If we had a decent supply of vaccines in the first place, we wouldn’t be the situation we are now where people are scrambling to get jabbed during a significant outbreak in Sydney.

On top of that, the government’s communication in English has been confusing as fuck at the best of times. In other languages, it’s been severely lacking.

Signs in English and Chinese outside of one of the clinics in question said that while the Pfizer vaccine itself was free, patients would be charged for the consultation, according to News Corp.

A doctor at the one of clinics also explained to AAP that new patients needed a consultation before getting the jab to check their medical history. Because the private clinic doesn’t bulk bill, the patients themselves have to cover the cost.

He said that some people such as Chinese-speaking construction workers even came in thinking they had to be vaccinated in order to go to work.

“We are not the villain, we are the helper,” he claimed.

The whole situation is a mess and it shouldn’t have to be like this.

COVID vaccines are supposed to be free, and eligible people can rock up to the megaclinic at Sydney Olympic Park, for example, and get jabbed with the exact same Pfizer vaccine without spending a cent.

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. 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.