COVID-19 Vaccine – Some clarity about vaccination in General Practice

 In vaccination, COVID-19

Australian Government COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy

COVID-19 vaccine roadmap

Update re COVID-19 vaccine rollout  

The Australian Government is bringing forward the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine from Mid March 2021 to Mid February 2021.

The full vaccine roadmap has been made public.  The aim is to vaccinate the most at risk populations first and then progressively work through the rest of the community.  In summary the phases of the vaccine rollout determine priority and are as follows:

1a – Very high risk eg: staff on COVID wards, respiratory clinics, quarantine workers, aged care residents and staff.

1b – People aged over 70, health care workers, ATSI >55 years, those with at risk chronic medical conditions, other high risk workers.

2a – Adults 50-70, ATSI 18-54, other higher risks groups.

2b – rest of adult population.

3 – Those under 18 (if and when vaccination is recommended).

At a joint press conference with The President of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), The Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that General Practice clinics can be involved in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from phase 1b (Phase 1a will mostly occur in specialised hospital clinics).

Minister Hunt also clarified that GPs will be administering the AstraZeneca/Oxford University candidate vaccine, pending approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). While this vaccine candidate has lower rates of efficacy than other COVID-19 vaccine candidates it is based on proven vaccine technology and processes. It is a safe vaccine that has been shown to stop severe cases of COVID-19. Further to this it does not need the extremely low temperatures that other vaccine require which make it more suitable for administration in the community.

General practice is ideally placed to assist with this mammoth national vaccination effort. After all, General Practices have excellent knowledge of their community and patients. This goes beyond just their medical history and conditions, but also the best ways to connect with the community and reach the patients.

General practices are expected to submit an expression of interest to become a COVID-19 vaccine administration centre. HHMP will be submitting such an expression of interest as soon as this becomes possible with the aim of bringing the vaccine to our patients as quickly and safely as possible.

While not every GP practice may choose to be a COVID-19 vaccine centre, we feel that our experience and facilities make HHMP an excellent choice to provide such a service to the community. During the 2020 Flu vaccine season, we were able to administer thousands of doses over a very short period of time in an efficient, socially distanced and safe way.

Our doctors, nurses and administration staff will work together to identify patients who meet the criteria and contact them. We expect to be using our recall systems, SMS messages, local advertising etc to advise patients about the availability of the vaccine and the best ways to make a booking. Especially important will be  rebooking patients for their booster shot at the appropriate time. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation with this process.

We understand this will be a time of anxiety for some patients, either about the safety of the vaccine or about their eligibility for vaccination. Firstly, we would not be giving a vaccine that we are not confident in and are satisfied that it is fit for purpose and safe. Second, we will be following the national framework and contacting those eligible as soon as possible in a fair and equitable way.

We are also working to plan and organise for the flu vaccination season as well. The flu vaccine season is likely to overlap with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We will provide further information to patients as it becomes available.

Instead of calling our reception, please check this blog or our COVID-19 page often for the latest and most accurate information.

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