Peak medical bodies want COVID vaccine booking clarity

Matt Woodley

17/03/2021 5:25:55 PM

With general practices already inundated with calls ahead of next week’s rollout, the RACGP and AMA have urged the Federal Government to clarify the process and ‘not build unrealistic expectations’ for patients.

Man looking at national COVID vaccine booking page
There has been confusion about where and how eligible patients can book their COVID vaccination.

Confusion about where and how eligible patients can book their COVID vaccination has plagued the lead up to phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
General practices are due to begin administering doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine from next week, but the reduced number of doses and practices organised for the first weeks of the rollout have left appointment opportunities limited.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said while general practice is the backbone of vaccination arrangements in Australia, the Federal Government has not communicated with patients effectively about the rollout process.
‘Next week, 1100 general practices across Australia will commence vaccinating patients against COVID-19, starting with priority patient populations,’ Dr Price said.
‘Over time, the supply of vaccines will increase, as will the number of places where a patient can access a vaccine.
‘GPs have responded in large numbers to the Government’s call to help vaccinate the community, with around 4600 general practices to be progressively incorporated into the vaccine rollout over the next four weeks.
‘However, it’s clear from the calls many general practices have received this morning that the Government needs to better communicate with the community on the vaccine rollout process, and not build unrealistic expectations, particularly at this early stage.’
Dr Price said practices are currently going through patient records to identify who is eligible and will contact their usual patients to organise an appointment.
‘While it may be frustrating for some patients that they can’t get an appointment now, more will become available as the rollout progresses,’ she said.
The choice of contractor selected to build and run the national booking system has already generated some controversy, and currently only clinics that use HealthEngine are able to accept online bookings through the Commonwealth booking platform, despite having the capacity to do so through their own websites.
Domestic manufacturer CSL is on track to commence dispatching locally produced doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine before the end of the month, but it is not clear whether distribution will begin on Monday as has been previously reported, nor if the volumes will initially be as high as one million per week.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Omar Khorshid said more needs to be done to manage expectations and make the process easier.
‘Based on the volume of calls GPs have already received today, it’s good to see that the community is confident and wants to access a COVID-19 vaccination,’ Dr Khorshid said.
‘However, it’s clear the Government needs to make it easy for patients and general practices alike to manage bookings for COVID-19 vaccinations and be clear about how long patients may have to wait before they can get an appointment.’
Dr Korshid also asked for patience from everyone involved, as general practices only currently have a ‘modest’ number of doses available.
‘The rollout of the vaccine is a huge logistical challenge that is constrained by the available supply of vaccines,’ he said. ‘This means the rollout of the vaccine in general practice will start slowly and then build over time.
‘Unlike the flu season, where 15 million doses are already stockpiled, this rollout relies on a weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses that is capped.
‘GPs will be following strict priority criteria to ensure that vaccines are prioritised towards those who need it most.’
Further complicating the process is a new Queensland Health directive for people with a known history of anaphylaxis to delay getting the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, after four people suffered a severe allergic reaction over a 48-hour period earlier this week.
As a result, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said anaphylactic patients will be observed in hospitals once they are eventually given the all clear to receive the vaccine.
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Dr Daniel Thomas Byrne   18/03/2021 7:43:06 AM

Same issue 12 months ago:
- no PPE and now it’s everywhere
- no general COVID-19 testing allowed and now it’s everywhere
It’s the nature of pandemics when supply does not equal demand in a state of anxiety.
Once CSL comes online we will be OK. Until then it’s rationing and triage.

Rural GP   18/03/2021 8:31:21 AM

We were inundated with calls yesterday. We have no explanation for patients . Once again its Government /DoH failing to respect or understand General Practice. They have stuffed up the booking system, and stuffed up the rollout ( so far) because they really do no understand Primary health care, or working with independent Professionals. So with bluster and politics, they will make it appear General Practices are behind. We are babes in the woods when it comes to PR. Can the College and the AMA go on the offensive, without diluting the good vaccine messages please .

Dr Ian Mark Light   18/03/2021 9:35:03 AM

It will be large vaccination centres like the some hospitals the Melbourne Convention Centre and Exhibition Building that will have to do the millions of vaccinations with outreach vaccination ambulances .
The General Practices have not the room
for huge vaccine coverage .
It will a “Dunkirk “ type operation large vaccination centres medium and small vaccination centres combined and intergrated .
It would be great if CSL could produce different vaccines like Novovax - Merk is helping Johnson and Johnson and for export to the poorer Asia Pacific Nations - Papua New Guinea is struggling for example .