4 March 2021

Vaccinators can’t choose their patients

Clinical COVID-19 General Practice Vaccination

Practices that are eligible to participate in the national COVID vaccination program but want only to vaccinate their own patient cohort are being asked to withdraw from the rollout.

And any practice that hoped to have a high throughput for administering the vaccines will now have to reconsider their business plan, as the dose allocations will not be large enough.

The Department of Health has advised this week, via the Primary Health Networks, that general practices unwilling to vaccinate people outside their patient cohort should withdraw from phase 1b.

But if practices want to primarily vaccinate their own patients (but wouldn’t turn away other patients), then they can stay on and participate.

All eligible practices will be receiving an information pack from their PHN, on behalf of the DoH, in the next two days which will confirm their allocated start date in phase 1b.

The information pack is also expected to also contain information about the number of vaccines practices will be able to order and specifications about the packing size of the vaccines – so practices can be prepared to store them upon arrival.

But in a webinar for GPs hosted this week by the DoH, practices were told that the number of doses allocated to each practice “won’t be enormous”.

“We’ve planned a staggered but rapidly scaled rollout so all practices who confirm their eligibility to the program can be fully rolled out within 4 weeks of the commencement of phase 1b,” said Dr Lucas de Toca, acting first assistant secretary for the Primary Care Response to COVID-19.

With more than 4600 practices eligible to administer COVID vaccines, hundreds of practices will be expected to join phase 1b every week for the first four weeks.

Dr de Toca said vaccines would only be allocated to practices based on their capacity, geographic location, existing patient population and the density of 1b eligible patients in the area.

“The number of doses at each point of contact, in each GP practice won’t be enormous and it won’t be a mass-vaccination model where you can stop everything that you’re doing, stop being a general practice, and become a vaccination clinic,” he said.

“It’s more going to be about how to integrate the vaccine operations and the delivery of the vaccines into the primary care model, without displacing that primary care model.”

Practices will be notified by the end of the week how many vaccines they are eligible to access under phase 1b. Practices will be under no obligation to order the total number of vaccines designated for their clinic, but they will not be able to exceed the allocated amount.

“It is likely that some practices who have applied expecting a high throughput through their clinic might be a little bit disappointed that the doses allocated won’t be as high as they expected – but this is the equitable way to ensure that everybody has access close to where they live, and through their own regular GP,” Dr de Toca said.

In other news, the DoH has confirmed that the government will provide GP clinics with vaccine administration products including syringes, needles and sharps containers. The allocation of these items will be in line with the amount of AstraZeneca doses allocated to each practice.

Dr de Toca said if practices struggle to source other equipment required for a standard vaccination program, they can contact the Vaccine Operation Centre (contact details for which will be in the information pack).

“We really encourage clinics to source [the other] equipment, and note it doesn’t require any other equipment different to other vaccination programs,” he said.

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