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AMA and RACGP plea for government’s help over AstraZeneca COVID vaccine rollout confusion

Doctors across the country have urged the government to clarify the COVID vaccine rollout process.

Another six million people will be eligible to receive the vaccine from Monday, but widespread confusion has left patients and GP practices scrambling.

The issue has left the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) asking the government for help.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said GP practices across the country have been inundated with calls and bookings ahead of the rollout, with patients confused about when they will receive the jab.

“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,” Khorshid said in a statement.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week. Credit: AAP

“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.

“The rollout of the vaccine is a huge logistical challenge that is constrained by the available supply of vaccines.

“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.

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‘This is a time for patience for everyone involved.’

“This means that general practices will have only a modest number of doses available for patients for now.

“GPs will be following strict priority criteria to ensure that vaccines are prioritised towards those who need it most.

“This is a time for patience for everyone involved.”

More than 1000 practices will be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in phase 1b of the rollout, which is set to begin on March 22.

By the end of April, more than 4000 practices will be handing out the jab.

In Sydney’s Restwell Street Medical Centre in Bankstown, patients are being put on a list because the vaccines haven’t arrived yet.

“(Patients) are anxious, they are confused, they need more questions to be answered from the government,” Dr Assad Malek told 7NEWS, adding he’s unsure of when the vaccines will arrive at the practice.

Better communication needed

RACGP President Dr Karen Price added the government has not communicated enough with patients about the rollout process.

“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,” Price said.

“Many practices will already be going through their patient records to identify who is eligible and will reach out to 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.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said people needed to be patient for appointments.

“They will progressively release appointments – so please don’t badger your GPs,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine.
A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Credit: AAP

The confusion over the rollout comes as Queensland Health authorities confirmed four cases of anaphylaxis in people who received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

All four patients had a history of severe allergic reactions and have recovered.

Three in four Australians intend to receive a vaccine when it becomes available, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Earlier this week, several European countries halted their AstraZeneca vaccine rollout after countries reported possible serious side-effects.

To check when you’ll be eligible for the vaccine, head here.

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