Inadequate Government Funding will Slow Delivery of COVID 19 Vaccinations

Media Release 29 January 2021

The Australian General Practice Alliance (AGPA) is concerned that the failure to utilise the full power of General Practice under the current phase 1b vaccination program will delay the COVID 19 vaccine rollout and impact on its effectiveness.

The Australian General Practice Alliance believes that vaccination by a person’s ‘own” GP as part of a holistic and safe primary healthcare approach is the best way to deliver COVID 19 vaccinations as it is for all other vaccinations. The infrastructure, expertise and experience to deliver vaccinations already exists and can be rapidly and safely adapted for this purpose.  

General Practices currently provide over 80% of vaccinations provided under primary healthcare programs in Australia and these vaccinations are provided in an environment of holistic primary healthcare care where patients are vaccinated at their own General Practice.

The Government is currently seeking to have only 1000 of the approximately 6000 General Practices in Australia participate in the program.

The approach to the COVID 19 vaccinations proposed in the EOI documents:

  • Requires Practices to use an untested centralised booking system that is incompatible with any Practice Clinical Information System, despite the existence of software which is compatible.
    This will require double entry of patient information.
  • Requires Practices to observe patients for 30 minutes after the injection and to maintain appropriate separation of patients while they wait (double the time for a normal flu injection). This will make the vaccination at least twice as costly as an influenza vaccine to administer.
  • By using only 1000 of approximately 6000 General Practices in Australia the process will tend to separate most patients from their own Practice, undermining the concept of vaccination at your local GP and a holistic approach to primary healthcare.With only 15% of  Practices being able to offer COVID 19 vaccination, uptake rates are likely to be reduced as patients will be forced to book and attend (twice) at an unknown Practice rather than attending their “own” Practice.This will tend to increase vaccine hesitancy as patients will need to find and register with a new clinic. The more vulnerable older patients are more likely to find this difficult. Reduced vaccination rates of elderly and otherwise vulnerable patients are not in anyone’s interest.By increasing the effort required for people to attend for a vaccination the process of vaccination will be slowed.  
  • In order to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible Practices are looking at solutions such as after-hours clinics (which increases costs for overtime payments) or hiring additional premises as satellite clinics (which incurs additional rental costs and accreditation for the premises). 
  • The EOI offers only $30.75 for the first injection and $24.25 for the second, when cost estimates to meet the required standards range from at least $50 per vaccination.
    Past influenza injections, which take less than half the time to administer, are currently funded at $17-25 per vaccination.
    There is no logical reason why the second injection should cost less than the first, and both are essential.
    Even if both injections were at the higher rate the Australian Government is expecting the small businesses that are General Practices to subsidise the vaccination program. This will preclude many Practices from participating in the program which will reduce the availability of vaccination sites.

AGPA Chair, Dr John Deery said “The highly successful GP respiratory clinics developed as part of the COVID 19 response offered a funding model that would be appropriate for the roll out of COVID 19 vaccinations.

“Direct funding for a consultation rather than payment via the MBS allows more flexibility for the deployment of GPs, nurses and administration staff”, he said.

“Whatever model is used it must encourage people to attend at their local GP. This requires most General practices to be COVID vaccination clinics and to do this adequate funding is required”.

“Phase 1b aims to vaccinate six million Australians. The Federal Government needs to continue to work with and listen to experts who work in this area – the GP Practice Owners”.

“Given the significant economic costs associated with the pandemic, now is not the time to cut corners on our road out of trouble”.

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