No legal risk for GPs administering AstraZeneca vaccine: Health Minister

Paul Hayes

11/04/2021 5:55:04 PM

Greg Hunt has moved to reassure practitioners amid reports GPs stopped offering AstraZeneca to under-50s following recent ATAGI recommendations.

Greg Hunt
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said ‘no doctor need worry’ when administering the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Image: AAP)

This article was updated at 7.25 pm on Sunday 11 April to include comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

With a Sydney Morning Herald report from Sunday morning indicating many GPs are refusing to offer the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine to people under 50 ‘until the Federal Government urgently clarifies legal liability if patients suffer serious or fatal side effects’, the Federal Health Minister was resounding in his message later in the day.
‘I want to make something very, very clear,’ Greg Hunt told reporters.
‘Australia already has vaccine indemnity agreements in place. The AMA and [Royal Australian] College of General Practitioners have clear advice in writing from the Government to that effect, and they also have updated informed consent material, so no doctor need worry.
‘I am saying this on behalf of the Government but also on behalf of our legal advice: no doctor need worry.’
According to the SMH article, GPs have expressed concern ‘they could face expensive lawsuits if they advised a patient under 50 to have AstraZeneca’s vaccine and there was a severe side effect’, and AMA NSW President Dr Danielle McMullen advised doctors in that state not to administer AstraZeneca to people under 50 except in exceptional circumstances.
‘At the moment, the guidelines are a little bit confusing,’ Dr McMullen said.
‘Certainly in the next few days, quite quickly, we will be trying to get more clarity on making sure. Is this a ban or not a ban, and what level of exceptional circumstance do you need?
‘Obviously protecting patients is our number one goal, but also making sure that the doctors aren’t putting themselves at risk.’
But Minister Hunt moved to allay such concerns by indicating doctors are protected and the vaccine is not dangerous.
‘These vaccines are safe and effective, and we simply follow the advice on administration of our medical experts,’ he said. ‘That has kept Australians safe and we will continue to provide those updates.
‘We will provide additional advice and additional confidence and additional support to the Australian people. But I know that our medical officials are doing that.’

The Federal Health Minister said GPs are still ‘flocking’ to participate in the vaccine program, with 1000 additional practices set to take part this week.
Minister Hunt’s comments come days after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advised the Pfizer vaccine can be given to Australians aged under 50, after experts met to discuss ongoing concerns over the link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Later on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the first time acknowledged that the country will likely not meet the revised target of all Australians receiving at least on vaccine dose by the end of 2021.

‘[The Government has] not set, nor has any plans to set, any new targets for completing first doses,’ the Prime Minister wrote in a Facebook post.

‘While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.

‘We will just get on with the job of working together to produce, distribute and administer the vaccines as safely and efficiently as possible.’
Earlier in the day, however, Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Sky News the Government was still hoping to vaccinate all Australians against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.
‘That is definitely the aim, that is the goal we have set, trying to have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year,’ he said. ‘[But] when you are dealing with a pandemic, there is a lot of unknowns and you have just got to make sure you set your goals and are prepared to adjust those as things occur.’
The Federal Government had originally planned to have all eligible Australians vaccinated by the end of October.

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Dr John Lamb   13/04/2021 6:53:24 AM

Can we please have a link to the written documentation mentioned by Mr Hunt?

Dr Michael Rice   13/04/2021 7:48:10 AM

Indemnity only helps once a patient has suffered and there has been a complex drawn-out legal process likely involving questions about failure-to-warn. And give the shifting sands of the past week that will be a difficult time for GPs in the firing line.

I understand that the "indemnity" really only applies via our MDOs facing claims over $500K. That's not going to affect me, very likely.

But rather than "just" indemnity, i do NOT want to get dragged through the courts or the media.

It's time (past time, I think) to consider a no-fault vaccination-injury compensation scheme that involves me minimally.

Dr Kevin Peter Arlett   13/04/2021 8:20:47 AM

And we are supposed to take comfort from a Health Minister and Federal Government that keeps throwing us under the bus? Its a no thank you from me.

Dr Joseph Wenceslaus Gomez   13/04/2021 7:11:35 PM

Vaccination of the public is a Public Health issue -- a total responsibility of the Gov't. As Drs, we are assisting the Gov't in its responsibility of vaccinating the ppopulation.
Hence the Gov't has to to totally and absolutely imdemnify the Drs for any and all litigation for adverse events, more so with the fact that our knowledge of this virus and vaccines, is still evolving.
In this context, it is the Govt's responsibility to give all Drs written instructions of everything the Dr has to record including forms for such recording, informed consent, who should get what vaccine (the FORMS), all drawn up by the Gov't.
The Drs' involvement in any such litigation should be limited to forwarding copies of the FORMS to the Gov't; The Dr can only be joined to the litigation if there was non-compliance with Gov't instructions/FORMS.
Only then can Drs be fully reassured in giving the vaccins/s
Joseph W. Gomez

Dr Nihad Jackson   23/04/2021 11:14:48 AM

I have missed registering in EOI .Now I don't know what I need to do to be able to be part of the GPs helping administering the COVID vaccine .
Any advice?

Dr Nihad Jackson   23/04/2021 11:19:30 AM

I have done the the COVIDE vaccine 6 modules already but not sure what next to get the vaccine to be able to be authorised to vaccinate my patients . Any help ,advice ?