AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid updated members on the AMA’s recent advocacy and some wins following Monday’s National Cabinet meeting.
In good news, Dr Khorshid highlighted that it was the AMA’s relentless advocacy on the issue of indemnity for our GPs which lead to National Cabinet announcing a COVID-19 vaccine indemnity scheme. While all the details are unclear at this stage, the AMA’s advocacy was for a scheme that covered all TGA approved COVID-19 vaccines, for all ages, for all GPs working in their practices, and for it to be retrospective. The new scheme delivers exactly that.
Second, the AMA has long called for all aged care workers to be vaccinated – both to require them to be vaccinated, and to support them in doing so. Again, National Cabinet has adopted that proposal.
The key issue for the AMA on this issue is supporting GPs in the sudden move to open up AstraZeneca to the under 40-year-old cohort, despite existing ATAGI advice that it remain the preferred vaccine for those over 60 years of age.
It is true that GPs were given no warning, that guidance was not developed or released in advance, and that GP practices were inundated with calls from the public, while hearing silence from the Department on Health.
Dr Khorshid highlighted that he has expressed his disappointment about the lack of communication with GPs on these changes, and has asked Government for urgent clarification and advice to GPs, formal communications to both GPs and the public, and greater support all round.
The AMA is also working with Government on the amendment of the longer consult Medicare item to make it available for vaccine consults for under 50s, as the current item descriptor does not contemplate this latest change yet.
Dr Khorshid restated the AMA’s position on the removal of age restrictions to access AstraZeneca by the Government – particularly after some inaccurate and misleading media coverage this week. The removal of the restriction on age is reasonable, is in line with an unchanged TGA approval, and will satisfy a desire in the community to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
At the same time the AMA continues to support the ATAGI advice that the Pfizer is preferred for those under 60 years of age, based on an analysis of risk and benefit modelled on a limited COVID-19 outbreak.
The change merely removes the restriction and allows all adult Australians access to the approved vaccine. It gives GPs the opportunity to provide the AZ vaccine if this is the patient preference, as long as the risks and benefits have been discussed and the patient has provided informed consent.
The AMA understands that this is a complex message to convey to the public.
Rest assured the AMA will continue to talk to the public through the media as we strive to get the nation vaccinated, while at the same time working on your behalf behind the scenes to address significant concerns stemming from the rollout.
GPs are at the centre of the nation’s vaccine rollout – of that there is no doubt. The AMA will continue to make it clear to Government what support is needed for GPs to continue this critical task.