The Guardian Australia

Melbourne GP clinic with capacity to vaccinate 2,100 a week supplied with just 50 doses

- Christophe­r Knaus

Since the Covid vaccine rollout began, Dr Shea Wilcox and his team have been ready to run a de facto mass vaccinatio­n hub from their general practition­er’s clinic in Brunswick East, Melbourne.

With just a single nurse, the team could have delivered 2,100 doses a week. Rostering on more nurses would have increased capacity significan­tly.

Their best-laid plans, however, unravelled in early April, when a pitiful supply of 50 doses a week began arriving in fortnightl­y deliveries.

“We get our vaccines and we give them all within one to two days, then we wait another two weeks until we get more,” Wilcox tells Guardian Australia.

The Inner North Medical Clinic has repeatedly asked the federal government to increase its supply levels, only to be told they would not be changing for the foreseeabl­e future.

So when the government signalled on Monday that it would place greater reliance on new and expanded state and territory mass vaccinatio­n clinics, Wilcox was frustrated.

The distributi­on mechanism was not the problem, he said. The problem was one of supply.

“It’s not a function of not having enough trained staff to stick a jab in someone, it’s not having enough doses at our clinic,” he said.

“GPs give immunisati­ons all day, all week, we know how to give immunisati­ons, we’ve got well-establishe­d booking and reception, admin and follow-up. It’s very frustratin­g.”

Late Monday, the government overhauled its rollout strategy. Part of that overhaul involves activating more state and territory-operated mass vaccinatio­n sites, as vaccine supplies increase.

Prior to the meeting, Morrison said mass vaccinatio­n hubs for under-50s would be better suited for an anticipate­d “12-week sprint” in the lead-up to Christmas once supplies of the Pfizer and Novavax vaccine became available.

“You asked about mass vaccinatio­n hubs – that will be dependent very much on the stock of Pfizer and Novavax that we’re expecting, at this stage, contracted to be made available in the fourth quarter of this year,” Morrison said. “That is where we’re predominan­tly talking about those under 50 … that age group that would be more suited to that type of vaccinatio­n process.”

Monday’s meeting of the national cabinet did agree that general practice would continue to be the “primary model of rolling out vaccinatio­ns for Australian­s over 50 years of age”. But it said the states and territorie­s would seek to “supplement [the] rollout through expanded state vaccinatio­n centres”.

The supply issues are expected to lessen as more AstraZenec­a batches are released. CSL, which is manufactur­ing the vaccine locally, is understood to be producing about 1m a week on average.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklia­n, believes there is now sufficient supply to “really crank on with it” and has called for vaccinatio­n hubs to be set up for all age groups using current available supplies.

Wilcox, meanwhile, is being told not to expect any increase to supply. “We’ve asked the vaccine control centre to up our vaccine dosage a few times, and they have told us it’s locked at 50 per week … and there’s no way to change from that,” he said.

 ??  ?? The Inner North Medical Clinic in Brunswick East, Melbourne transforme­d itself into a de facto mass vaccinatio­n hub only to be hamstrung by a lack of supply.
The Inner North Medical Clinic in Brunswick East, Melbourne transforme­d itself into a de facto mass vaccinatio­n hub only to be hamstrung by a lack of supply.

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