The number of general practitioners in Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout is set to increase, with up to 900 additional general practices set to come on board to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Federal health minister, Greg Hunt, announced yesterday (Thursday) that this would be part of a “targeted expansion” to ensure more vaccination locations are available across the country to assist with the rollout.
The national Department of Health is now inviting expression of interest from general practices who are not part of the current rollout process. All new participants will be brought into the program from mid-June to be part of the vaccination process for people aged 50 and above.
More than 4,600 primary care vaccination sites joined the early stages of the rollout between March and April, including approximately 4,400 general practices.
GPs have given around two-thirds of vaccinations
“Primary care, as the cornerstone of our health system, has played a critical role in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout so far, with approximately two-thirds of all the vaccinations administered to date occurring within general practices,” Hunt said.
“Beyond the general practices in regions initially targeted, the results of the expressions of interest may be used to bring further practices on board as the rollout progresses, and for a future ramp-up of the program later in the year as more vaccines become available.”
Reacting to the minister’s statement, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners welcomed news that 900 additional general practices will begin delivering the vaccine.
The organisation’s President, Dr Karen Price, said the announcement highlighted why general practice is so vital to the vaccine rollout.
“Despite encountering numerous challenges including patchy supply, general practices are doing a tremendous job,” she said.
GPs are vital as their patients know and trust them
“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 concerning the additional practices is a welcome step forward, particularly since there will be a focus on getting GPs on board in areas where there is currently limited access to vaccination locations – including remote and rural areas.”
Dr Price noted that GPs have been dealing with increasing vaccine hesitancy and the College was therefore calling on the Government to introduce new Medicare items so that doctors can counsel patients who are wavering on whether to be vaccinated or not.
“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,” she said.