GPs set to receive more AstraZeneca doses in fast-tracked rollout

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

22/04/2021 5:07:04 PM

The shift means people over 50 will have access to COVID vaccines from GP respiratory clinics from 3 May, and general practices from 17 May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said GPs have given half of the 1.8 million COVID vaccines administered in Australia. (Image: AAP)

The confirmation came from Prime Minister Scott Morrison following the most recent National Cabinet meeting, at which Australia’s political leaders also agreed to prioritise Pfizer for people under 50 in phases 1a and 1b, as well as quarantine workers and those in aged and disability care.
Prime Minister Morrison said 1.8 million vaccines have already been administered, with half delivered by GPs, while it was also confirmed that general practices will soon receive an increased supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price welcomed the announcement, saying that it will help general practice remain front and centre of the 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 [Department of Health Secretary] 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 skillset and expertise to talk to patients who are wavering on whether to be vaccinated – it is what we do.’
Professor Murphy also clarified that the Pfizer vaccine will not be made available to any people over the age of 50 until later in the year, in an effort to maximise the limited supplies Australia has already received from overseas.
‘We [still] recommend AstraZeneca [for this cohort],’ he said.
‘The risk–benefit for over 50 is vastly in favour of being vaccinated. But people always have a choice and more Pfizer will be available later in the year.
‘We need to ensure, because of this new age split, that … people under 50 who are eligible at the moment, such as aged care workers, disability care workers, those people with underlying chronic medical conditions, emergency service workers and broader healthcare workers from all settings can have access to Pfizer at the state Pfizer clinic.’
Dr Price said it is vital that any doses of Pfizer currently available in Australia reach the appropriate people as soon as possible.
‘This includes GPs under 50, many of whom themselves are administering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in their own practices,’ she said.
‘Our GPs need a clear plan and clear communication on how they themselves can be vaccinated.’ 
The RACGP President had said earlier that the revamped vaccine rollout strategy would put things back on track, following reports of people under 50 eligible for phases 1a and 1b cancelling COVID vaccine appointments due to fears of blood clots.
Outside of expediting over-50s’ access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, National Cabinet also resolved to reduce flights from India by 30% in response to the country’s increasingly severe coronavirus outbreak.
The nation of 1.36 billion people is currently registering more than 200,000 new COVID cases each day.
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Dr Cristina Tolentino   23/04/2021 7:28:48 AM

Will ALL practices be allowed to order Astra Zeneca covid vaccines for this May17 target? So no more expression of interest and practice eligibility checklists?

Dr Robert William Micallef   23/04/2021 8:23:19 AM

It is surprising that a medical organisation would be complicit in spreading misinformation. We know there is an additional risk to the astra Zeneca vaccine with a risk of around 1 in 200,000 with a 25% mortality rate for rare clots. We also know from the latest UK analysis 30% of these events have occurred in over 50’s. We still don’t know whether there are any predisposing factors. We also have zero community transmission and closed borders. Taking all this into account I don’t see how the benefit of astra Zeneca vastly outweighs the risk. Finally as most of our patients know there is a more effective and safer alternative that is being denied to them. Patients are weighing the benefit of vaccination with the risk of waiting for a safer alternative.

Dr Alastair Stark   23/04/2021 1:49:00 PM

Why do we have to wait until 17 May? If a 69 year old comes in today should we turn them away?

Rural GP   25/04/2021 12:28:35 PM

Dear Dr Micallef
Thanks for sharing that thought. I also have been cringing every time an expert mention risks Vs benefits . A lawyer, a sceptic, will quickly argue there currently is no risk from COVID.
I would agree, we are not paying the public enough respect to understand risk. Do we have to follow the political narratives where we scare people rather than educate. The risk is real, but it is not unreasonable for patients to wait for at least transparent information about which vaccines are coming and when.
Thanks, for sharing your thoughts, I wondered if I was the only doubter.

Dr Peter JD Spafford   25/04/2021 8:01:43 PM

Dr Karen Price put GPs in the front and center, Wow not sure which way to face. Maybe just bow to the nearest government official. Thanks for nothing.