The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling for patients to switch off social media and turn to their GP for vaccine information.
The call comes in World Immunisation Week, and at a time when GPs across Australia are working hard on the twin rollouts of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. General practice and primary care have now passed the 1 million milestone for COVID-19 vaccinations.
It is a timely reminder of the importance of vaccinations, as GPs have been dealing with rising vaccine hesitancy regarding COVID-19 vaccines. An ANU study found a significant increase in uncertainty about COVID-19 vaccines among Australian adults – from 5% unwilling to be vaccinated and 7 % hesitant in August 2020, to 8% unwilling and 13% hesitant in January 2021.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said World Immunisation Week was an opportunity to remind patients of the importance of seeking expert medical advice.
“General practice passing the 1 million milestone for COVID-19 vaccinations is a historic achievement. We should be celebrating it and thanking those on the frontline and the patients who’ve come forward and put their hand up to protect themselves and their community.
“However, we know that rapidly circulating misinformation about vaccinations, particularly on social media, remains a serious threat to our community.
“We can and must all do our bit to fight misinformation about vaccines.
“Remind your family, friends and colleagues about what vaccines have done for us – for over 200 years, vaccines have protected our community against some of the world’s worst diseases, including polio and smallpox.
“We take it for granted that such terrible diseases are no longer a threat in Australia, but we shouldn’t.
“Vaccine hesitancy is seeing patients in Australia succumbing to diseases we shouldn’t need to deal with. We have readily available measles vaccines, yet in 2019 some 286 measles cases were notified – nearly three times higher than the previous year.”
“I strongly encourage patients who are feeling uncertain about vaccinations to turn to their GP. Your GP will give you expert medical advice that’s personalised, according to your unique health history, any current concerns, or medications.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so please don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any concerns, no question is wrong.
The RACGP President also commended GPs for their role in building vaccine confidence in the community.
“Vaccines are business as usual for general practice, but with the twin rollouts of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines on top of routine immunisations, GPs have been working harder than ever.
“An essential part of our job is talking to our patients and empowering them with evidence-based knowledge so they can make an informed decision. This has no doubt contributed to us passing the 1 million milestone for COVID-19 vaccinations in general practice.
“We listen to our patients if they have concerns, and our patients listen to us because they trust their GP. This is why general practice plays such a vital role in building vaccine confidence in our community.
“I want to thank all GPs for their efforts. It is your hard work that protects our community and improves health and wellbeing for everyone.”
Patients can check when they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and see if their usual general practice is delivering COVID-19 vaccinations in the Government’s Vaccine Eligibility Checker, online here: https://covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au/
Patients should contact their usual general practice about receiving a flu vaccine. Many practices will alert patients when flu vaccines are available, and patients should check their usual clinic’s website.
The annual influenza vaccine is recommended for all patients over 6-months to prevent influenza. For those aged over 65 years, the adjuvanted influenza vaccine, Fluad® Quad, is recommended over the standard influenza vaccine.
The influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine should be administered at least 14-days apart, as per advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
The AstraZeneca vaccine should be administered in two doses, with a recommended interval of 12 weeks between doses.