COVID vaccine rollout program to add 900 general practices

Matt Woodley

27/05/2021 1:15:46 PM

Expressions of interest are open and any practice that participates in the National Immunisation Program will be eligible to apply.

Boxes of the AstraZeneca vaccine
Practices selected to participate will be able to order 300 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine per fortnight. (Image: AAP)

The short expression of interest (EOI) process is being coordinated by Primary Health Networks and
will close at midday (AEST) on Monday 31 May, with successful practices notified later that week.
Practices selected to participate will then be able to order 300 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine per fortnight, which they will begin administering from mid-June.
While accredited and non-accredited practices that participate in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) are eligible to apply, a key focus will be placed on areas where there are currently no GPs involved in the vaccine rollout.
The expansion was announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on the same day as the Victorian Government revealed it would allow people over 40 to begin receiving Pfizer vaccines at state-run vaccination centres, a move that comes in the wake of a new outbreak that has prompted a seven-day lockdown beginning at midnight on 28 May.

Victorians will still be able to leave their home to get vaccinated during the lockdown. Meanwhile, New South Wales and South Australia have opened their mass vaccination centres to people aged over 40 and those 16 and above living in regional areas, respectively.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement to add more practices to the rollout, having recently told newsGP she is in favour of vaccinating Australians by ‘whatever means necessary’ and said it highlights why general practice is so vital in administering vaccines.
‘Despite encountering numerous challenges, including patchy supply, general practices are doing a tremendous job,’ she said.
‘General practice is a mass vaccination program; we are in communities across Australia and well placed to increase vaccine confidence and uptake. Patients know and trust their GP; we are connected to our communities.’
‘Today’s announcement is a welcome step forward, particularly since there will be a particular focus on getting GPs on board in areas where there is currently limited access to vaccination locations, including remote and rural areas.’
However, Dr Price also asked for increased Government support to help general practice fulfil its role.
‘GPs have been dealing with increasing vaccine hesitancy so we are also calling on the Government to introduce new Medicare items, so that we can counsel patients who are wavering on whether to be vaccinated or not,’ she said.
‘This will enable us to take the time to answer any questions and talk through why getting vaccinated is so important.
‘My message is straightforward and increasingly urgent: if you are eligible to be vaccinated, get vaccinated right away.’
The final decision of which practices will participate, their commencement dates and allocations will be made by the Government, in consultation with states and territories.
All selected practices must meet AstraZeneca site requirements that have been developed with advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the standards outlined in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
Practices will be prioritised for selection based on location, access for vulnerable patient groups – such as culturally and linguistically diverse and/or homeless populations – and accreditation status.

Aside from opening up the vaccine program to more general practices, the Department of Health has also released an updated consent form GPs can use prior to vaccinating patients. 

To date, the more than 4500 general practices that have already taken part in the program have been responsible for 55% of all vaccines administered in Australia, but Dr Price said there is still more to be done before the community is safe.
‘Victorians are once again facing another lockdown. It shows plainly that this pandemic is not over, and that we must not become complacent. We do not know where or when more outbreaks like this will occur – it could happen anywhere,’ she said.
‘We know that vaccinated people are far less likely to suffer serious effects if they contract the virus and emerging data suggests they are also less likely to transmit the disease.
‘So please, for your own health and for the sake of the entire community, get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. Do not wait for another vaccine because you could be waiting a long time and it is not worth the risk.
‘If you can receive a jab, get vaccinated right away.’
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