The Guardian Australia
Australian doctors urge government to give greater certainty on Covid vaccines
Doctors have urged the Australian government to provide greater certainty on vaccine supply, stating they continue to be frustrated by delivery delays and insufficient stock.
The federal health department secretary, Prof Brendan Murphy, on Tuesday
said the “vast majority of GPs are incredibly happy with the rollout”, despite well-publicised concerns about logistical and communications failings.
Asked about Murphy’s comments, the head of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price, said some GPs continued to experience problems with missed deliveries and undersupply. That was making it difficult for clinics to book in clients for vaccination, she said.
“General practice, just like all vaccine providers, needs surety of supply,” Price told Guardian Australia on Wednesday. “If we are to schedule appointments, we need to have confidence that the vaccine will be delivered in the correct volume and on the day and time expected.”
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Price said she couldn’t speak for all GPs and some had had no issues with the rollout.
“However, for others, there have been teething issues regarding supply, which is to be expected,” she said.
“Whilst we have been advised that the majority of vaccines are being delivered as scheduled, we have also had reports of vaccine deliveries not being received as scheduled, which has impacted general practice bookings.
“Some GPs have expressed frustration that insufficient stock has been delivered to enable them to book in jabs.”
The rollout has now missed several key targets. CSL, the local manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, had hoped to release 2m doses by the end of March. It has released about 1.3m so far.
The government had initially hoped to have vaccinated 4 million people by the end of March. It has vaccinated about 920,000 Australians to date.
The government is also well below the daily vaccination rate it needs to achieve its new goal of providing the first dose to every adult by October.
The number of doses received through imports of the Pfizer vaccine was also lower than the government would like. It had received about 870,000 of the promised 20m doses, with deliveries ranging about 110,000 to 150,000 a week.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, and health minister, Greg Hunt, sought on Wednesday to reassure Australians that the only issue was supply, and that the supply issues would soon be alleviated.
Hunt said 470,000 doses would be released from CSL in coming days, and another two deliveries were expected next week. At the same time, more GP practices were coming online each week.
The government expected about 3,000 GP clinics would be online by the end of the week, up from the initial 1,000.
Morrison was also making new attempts to have more than 3m AstraZeneca doses released from the European Union, following a spat on Wednesday, during which the body denied it had blocked exports to Australia.
“I mean, all I’ve simply done today is set out very clearly that 3.1m vaccines didn’t arrive in Australia,” Morrison said.
“It’s not a dispute. It’s not a conflict. It’s not an argument. It’s not a clash. It’s just a simple fact. And I’m simply explaining to the Australian public that supply issues is what’s constraining and has constrained, particularly over the recent months, the overall rollout of the vaccine.”
Price said her members were copping abuse from members of the public, frustrated at their inability to get the vaccine.
“Unfortunately, some patients have taken out their anger on general practice staff, including receptionists and administrative staff, and that is something I have been very concerned about,” she said. Increased production was a “priority”.
“As CSL ramps up domestic production, we expect numbers to increase and that will be most welcome,” Price said.
“Any general practice workers who are feeling discouraged should know that they are a vital part of this public health initiative and that many patients will be incredibly grateful in the months and years ahead.”