RACGP welcomes COVID-19 vaccine rollout changes

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed changes to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and once again urged patients to get their vaccinations once they are eligible.

This afternoon, it was announced that patients aged over 50 will be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine through GP respiratory clinics and states and territories from 3 May and general practices generally from 17 May. Those over 50 will only have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine with a few exceptions and there will be increased supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine to general practice.

It comes following the recent recalibration of the vaccine rollout, which has put additional stress and strain on many general practices. Practices across Australia are still receiving calls from people eligible to receive the vaccine under phase 1b cancelling their appointments.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price encouraged people in the over 50 age bracket to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

“If you are aged 50 or over, please get vaccinated at the first opportunity,” she said.

“Unfortunately, confusion over the changes to the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout has led to some patients cancelling their vaccine appointment or deciding that they will not be vaccinated once eligible.

“We must reverse this trend because we will not be able to protect our community unless people put their hand up to be vaccinated. Once more, I urge people to spread the word to friends, family, and colleagues that they should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

“GPs like me will be doing everything possible to counsel patients but for some people hearing the message about the importance of getting vaccinated from someone in their life, such as a close family member or friend, can prove decisive.”

The RACGP President stressed that the AstraZeneca vaccine will save lives.

“I appreciate that changes to the nation’s vaccine rollout can lead to confusion but please keep in mind this is still a very safe vaccine and the risk of adverse effects is extremely small,” she said.

“If you are uncertain about whether to be vaccinated or not – talk to your usual GP and do not rely on information spread by anti-vaxxers on social media.

“Younger people may be growing impatient and asking when they will be vaccinated. I completely understand why you might be frustrated but rest assured your turn will come, nobody will miss out.”

Dr Price said general practice would remain front and centre in the vaccine rollout.

“GPs are perfectly positioned to deliver a safe and effective mass vaccination program, so long as we have adequate vaccine supplies and support,” she said.

“It was excellent to hear Professor Brendan Murphy announce that as part of the recalibration there would be increased supply of AstraZeneca doses to general practice.

“There are GPs living and working in communities right across the country. Patients trust their local GP and naturally want to go to them for their COVID-19 vaccine, just like they do for their annual influenza shot.

“The RACGP is not opposed to mass vaccination hubs, we believe that they will play a vital role. However, GPs are the ones with the right skill set and expertise to talk to patients who are wavering on whether to be vaccinated – it is what we do.”

Dr Price issued another warning about anti-vaxxers spreading misinformation.

“Our vaccine rollout has to evolve based on new information and this can create a sense of uncertainty,” she said.

“Anti-vaxxers will try and take advantage of this uncertainty to spread suspicion, anxiety and fear. So instead of listening to them, heed expert advice – including from your GP.

“Remember, we are available to answer any questions and have your best interests at heart.”

Dr Price also spoke of the need for the Pfizer vaccine doses currently in Australia to reach the appropriate people as soon as possible.

“There are Pfizer doses in Australia currently, and we must ensure they reach those that need it most as soon as possible,” she said.

“This includes GP’s under 50, many of whom themselves are administering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in their own practices. Our GPs need a clear plan and clear communication on how they themselves can be vaccinated.”

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