Stand and deliver: GPs move into the front line of vaccine rollout

Doctors are ironing out complicated logistics and asking for patience as they prepare to give millions of Australians the coronavirus vaccine.

Mar 08, 2021, updated Mar 08, 2021
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The rollout has so far occurred at government-run hubs across the nation which provided the free vaccines to frontline health staff, hotel quarantine workers as well as aged and disability care residents and employees.

General practitioners will be part of the rollout from March 22, when older and vulnerable Australians will be able to get the virus jab from their local doctor.

The staggered rollout will eventually include more than 4000 clinics.

Deputy chair of the Australian GP Alliance Mukesh Haikerwal says doctors are preparing to have all hands on deck, while they wait for more information from officials.

“Remembering that we’ve got to continue with business as usual, and the flu vaccine is coming through very shortly too,” Haikerwal told ABC radio on Monday.

“We will do it, we will have to work after hours, we will have to work weekends. We’re prepared to do the work, we always have.

“But we have got to be supported.”

The vaccines are free and voluntary for Australians, with GPs to get $55 if patients get their two doses from the same clinic.

Haikerwal is wary of that policy, as there are many reasons why Australians will not be able to return to where they received their first dose, leaving doctors in the lurch.

For a seamless rollout he says it’s important for people to find information about the vaccines before booking in to receive one.

Sydney GP and former federal politician Kerryn Phelps says there is a huge discrepancy in the number of vaccines her two clinics have been allocated, with one set to get 50 jabs a week and the other 450.

Therefore some clinics will not have enough doses for their usual patients, meaning people will need to find a new GP to get the jab.

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This increases workload for doctors.

“Many of us will be working extra sessions, weekends, before and after normal session times to cope with the extra demand of patients wanting to have vaccines done,” Phelps told Sky News.

“But it’s really important we do all pull together with this.”

Health Department boss Brendan Murphy says a vaccine eligibility tracker will be available over the next week.

Former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard was among the first Australians to get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday.

She joined Health Minister Greg Hunt and Professor Murphy – formerly the chief medical officer – at a Melbourne clinic.

Two weeks earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly were among the first to be vaccinated with the Pfizer jab.

As of Sunday, more than 81,000 Australians had been vaccinated.

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