COVID vaccine rollout ‘a sign of how far we’ve come’

Karen Price

22/03/2021 6:17:01 PM

Dr Karen Price has a message for Australia’s GPs as they embark upon one of the most important and challenging journeys in general practice history.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price
RACGP President Dr Karen Price says GPs have a chance to be a part of history.

Just over 12 months ago, we were looking out over the great COVID unknown.
Restrictions had just been imposed across Australia, while the rest of the world was serving a warning as to what could happen should we let this new, deadly coronavirus spread unchecked.
There was still incredible uncertainty over how COVID-19 was transmitted between people, what we needed to do to protect ourselves, and if, not how, we could treat it.
It is amazing to think that barely one year on, we are once again standing on the edge – except this time it is the edge of a path set to take us out of an international pandemic.
We are looking forward to freedom from social distancing. To more mass gatherings. To hugging distant relatives who we have been separated from for too long. To all of the things and places we took for granted before the pandemic hit.
I know the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine is only the beginning. The pandemic may well have a long tail of recovery before we can return to normal life just yet. But we have hope, and this week, a locally-produced vaccine which ensures the increasing supply over the coming months.
The pandemic, its management, and its recovery will be symbolic of how far we have come.
How much communities have turned to their GP and general practice’s role as distributers of these life-saving miracles of modern medicine is just as poignant, with our patients demonstrating huge trust in our role as central providers of their community health system.
To my colleagues, I know it’s a huge burden. Especially after the year that we’ve just had.
But I also know that we can deliver it because even though we’re tired, GPs will continue to find energy through a drive to serve our patients and the community. We always soldier on, letting little come between us and our bond to the communities we serve.
Even though the rollout has literally just started and we’ve already had a number of issues, we will cooperate and continue because this is part of an international public health rollout of historical importance. Public health is bigger than anyone or anything right now and we are ready to play our part.
Australia needs its GPs need to be front and centre. Vaccinations are part of we do, every year, whether or not there is a global pandemic threatening the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people.
Just last year we administered six million doses of flu vaccine in six weeks, and 17 million over three months. We perform 78% of the community’s usual vaccinations, year after year. We’ve got this, and now that the Government has guaranteed us supply, we know that we’ll have the resources to do it.
Afterall, if Australia is going to entrust anyone to take on this rollout, including all the challenges that come with it, I believe there is no one better placed than our world-class family of GPs.
There’s never a good time to have a pandemic.
But at least if it’s happening today we can have the surety and comfort of knowing that there has also never been a better-prepared GP cohort and healthcare system in Australian history, ready and waiting to protect our families, our communities, and ourselves.
Protecting ourselves is not just about ensuring we’re doing all we can to shield ourselves from the virus. It also means taking the time to practice self-care and to see our GP if we’re struggling. It means leaning on colleagues and asking for help when required, and it means being there to help others in their time of need.
So, as we embark on this epic journey, I would like to finish by saying thank you.
Thank you to GPs, but also to nurses, practice managers and all of the other members of the general practice community. It’s been a really tough stretch, and we have heard and acknowledged the sometimes angst-filled feedback you have provided along the way. 
I know how hard it is to keep showing up, being adaptable, maintaining your sense of humour, and always putting your patients first.
But by staying the course for just a little longer and holding steady, we have an opportunity to be a part of history. Our patients are already thanking us for it and we know how important our bond is with our communities across every part of Australia.

Truly GPs are the bedrock of Australia’s health system. Well done to every single one of you.
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Dr Christopher Michael Bollen   23/03/2021 9:23:52 AM

Thanks Karen. I’d like to remind all our colleagues of RACGP member support service during this very stressful time where we recognize so many hard working GPs are feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the vaccine program as well as trying to deliver everyday care. It’s tough work. Need help? Here’s the RACGP confidential support link

Dr RSY   3/04/2021 9:45:00 PM

Thanks, Dr Price and Bollen.
The vaccine roll out by the DoH has been riddled with stuff ups - initially in the aged care services, and now in primary care. The sooner that the DoH hands over the COVID vaccination program to the state health authorities, the better. DoH is a policy setting and funding agency. They do not have the expertise or competency to operationally deliver on a program such as the COVID vaccination. The National Immunisation Program (delivered by each state PHU) is a well established machinery that delivers effectively - with approx 12 million Flu vax being delivered last year - without the slightest hiccup! The same should happen for the COVID vax - hand it over to State Health authorities! Tax payers money will also be saved - as duplication is removed!

Dr RSY   5/04/2021 10:54:06 PM

Just to clarify my post - While the National Immunisation Program manages the program, it has General Practices as the key link in the roll out in the community. GP's order thru the State Health and everything runs like clockwork!
The DoH has set up a convoluted process that has led to a supply system that is ineffective and full of problems. DoH need to hand it over to the NIP. Very reliable sources from within DoH have advised that it is not a supply issue, but incompetence!
PS. A correction - According to a news article today by Prof Booy, it was 17 million doses delivered last year by GPs and pharmacies (thru this establish NIP system)!