Pfizer swap: Four million dose deal with UK signals increased supply for GPs

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

3/09/2021 4:23:22 PM

RACGP President Dr Karen Price says general practice has untapped capacity and that directing doses into primary care will help Australia meet its vaccination targets sooner.

Vials of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.
The four million Pfizer doses will ensure Australia has more than 10 million COVID vaccine doses available in September. (Image: AAP)

The deal, announced on Friday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will double the number of Pfizer doses available to Australians for September.
Due to arrive over the course of the next few weeks, doses will be distributed across states and territories on a per capita basis.
‘The plane’s on the tarmac now, it will be leaving tomorrow,’ Prime Minister Morrison said.
‘From Downing Street to Down Under, we are doubling down on what Pfizer doses are here in Australia this month.
‘Whether it is at the [general practices] with the GPs or in the state-based hubs, they will be able to move forward and see these doses get into arms and get Australians back to where we want to be – living with this virus as soon as we possibly can.’
The announcement comes just days after the Federal Government revealed a similar deal with Singapore for 500,000 doses of the mRNA vaccine.
With New South Wales and Victoria experiencing worsening COVID-19 outbreaks, RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the deal is ‘great news’ for GPs and the wider community.
‘That means that a lot more GPs can come on board more quickly,’ she told newsGP.
‘We’ve already seen how GPs, despite all the constraints on supplies, have been doing more than 50% of vaccinations. We are the mass vaccination clinic, and to limit the mass vaccination clinic when [we are] saying we can do more, just seems crazy.’
Currently, the majority of practices taking part in the rollout are receiving up to 300 Pfizer doses per week.  
But RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Muñoz said she is aware of a large number of practices that have capacity to deliver a lot more than that.
‘Certainly, way back at the very beginning of the vaccination program, practices modelled their capacity to deliver quite large volumes of doses per week,’ she told newsGP.
‘Based on that work, many of the practices have already determined the logistics of increasing their vaccine output. So I do know that with a greater access to doses, there will be greater activity in general practice.’
Dr Muñoz said it is also clear that increasing GPs’ capacity is ‘absolutely essential’ to removing barriers, particularly geographical ones, that are preventing more people from getting vaccinated.
‘Also, a lot of people want to have that conversation with a GP who knows them best and that really helps them to answer the questions that are relevant to them,’ she said.
‘So I think that this will really help with a great surge in vaccination numbers.’
To ensure communities have access to vaccination, the Government has left the Expression of Interest (EOI) process open for general practices who are interested and have yet to join the program.
Practices can contact their local Primary Health Network directly, and will be brought on board to administer AstraZeneca followed by Pfizer. 
To be eligible, practices must either be an accredited practice and hold a current and valid accreditation through the National General Practice Accreditation (NGPA) Scheme, or be a non-accredited practice administering vaccines under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). 
Dr Price said access to additional Pfizer doses is particularly good news for young people, who she says have carried a significant portion of the pandemic burden.
‘Young people are really desperate to get their dose and they’re having to wait weeks and weeks and weeks; they want their life back,’ she said.
‘This isn’t just a pandemic of infectious disease; it’s a pandemic of life on hold … and that’s going to lead us to a big mental health burden if we’re not careful.’
But Dr Price also said that it is important to be mindful that Australia still has access to many doses of AstraZeneca.
‘We’ve still got people who are over 60 who are still holding off, which is just such a shame,’ she said. ‘We’ve got two good vaccines.
‘As we get closer and closer [to] the vaccine targets, we’re going to have the harder to reach populations come into full view … and we’ve got to be really careful that we don’t leave out the marginalised and vulnerable people who are not always visible.’
Dr Muñoz said experiences in Australia’s two biggest cities have clarified just how vital vaccination is to Australia’s management of COVID-19.
‘Particularly given how infectious the Delta strain is,’ she said.
‘We know that there are a lot of people around the country who are very eager to be vaccinated, so the more doses we have access to, the faster we can vaccinate and the sooner we can get towards our goals of the 70–80% population vaccination rate.’
As with Australia’s deal with Singapore, four million doses of Pfizer will need to be sent to the UK in December.
‘At the end of the day, this is a good deal from Britain and a good deal for Australia,’ Prime Minister Morrison said.
‘And it is a good deal because it makes the most of the doses that they have now, which we need, and the doses that we will have later that they will need.’
Acknowledging the challenges practices have had to endure over the past 18 months, Dr Price said GPs have been going ‘above and beyond’ to get people in the community vaccinated and thanked them for their hard work.
‘We’ve got to keep focusing on the fact that every day we do that little bit more, we’re getting closer to when we can all perhaps look back on this time with some amazement of what we went through,’ she said.
‘And I would like to specifically say an enormous shout out to the practice managers who are feeling pretty low from what I’m told. They’re a part of this and they shouldn’t be overlooked in how tired they are and having to adapt, adapt and adapt.’
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