The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging eligible Western Australians to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
It comes as reports today reveal more than 240,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments are currently available at general practices across Western Australia. The latest figures show that just 45.3% of the state’s population have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses.
South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have announced that people aged 60 and over can opt for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as well as the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the state-run vaccination hubs. The federal Department of Health has also confirmed that general practices can opt to apply the new criteria and take additional bookings based on state and territory eligibility criteria (including Pfizer vaccines for people aged 60 and over) if they have capacity and available stock.
RACGP Western Australia Chair Dr Sean Stevens urged patients to roll up their sleeves.
“We haven’t got a moment to lose, all eligible people should get vaccinated right away,” he said.
“In Western Australia, we have been very fortunate to have zero community transmission for many months. It’s a credit to the entire state, including all people who did the right thing and abided by COVID restrictions such as checking in as well as getting tested when unwell.
“What it means, however, is that a sense of complacency may have crept in. Unlike in other states and territories, such as Victoria, the ACT and New South Wales, the virus seems very far away and not an immediate threat. I think that is a key factor in why our double dose vaccination rates are lower than other jurisdictions.
“The reality is that COVID-19 will reach us sooner rather than later and we must be prepared. When COVID-19 arrives, it will be unvaccinated people more likely to contract the virus and suffer serious effects, including hospitalisation or worse.
“It doesn’t have to be this way; we can learn from what other countries around the world have experienced and make sure as many people as possible are vaccinated in the coming weeks and months.
“To protect yourself and the broader community, including vulnerable people such as older patients and the immunocompromised, get vaccinated right now – don’t delay.”
Dr Stevens warned that people over 60 across Western Australia were particularly at risk.
“The best vaccine for patients 60 and over is the vaccine they can get right now,” he said.
“In Western Australia, that is either the Pfizer vaccine or the AstraZeneca vaccine. They are both extremely effective and safe vaccines and once again I stress that people in this age cohort should be mindful that if they do contract COVID-19 they are more at risk of serious effects.
“So please, get vaccinated as soon as you can and encourage your friends and family to do the same. No one can guarantee a future free of this virus forever and there is something you can do to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe – roll up your sleeve and receive your jab right away.”
The Western Australia RACGP Chair also made a plea for patients to be respectful of general practice staff.
“Please remember, expanding Pfizer vaccine eligibility to people aged 60 and over only applies at our state-run vaccination hubs and some general practices depending on each practice’s capacity and available vaccine stock and whether they have already vaccinated priority populations,” he said.
“Not all general practices will be able to give people aged 60 and over a Pfizer vaccine. So, if you are aged 60 or over and turn up to your local practice demanding a Pfizer vaccine, they may not be able to help you.
“My message is clear as can be – please don’t take your frustrations out on practice managers, receptionists and nurses just trying to do their job. They don’t make the rules and have been through enough already during this vaccine rollout.”