COVID-19 vaccine information for GPs


General practice is part of the Australian COVID-19 vaccination policy and the RACGP will provide information to support our members during the vaccine roll out. This page will be updated with the latest information and resources as they become available.

Information on this page was last updated on Monday 18 October 2021, 12.10 pm AEST.

Recent updates include:

Subscribe to receive the Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccines update and COVID-19 weekly updates for GP

ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has made recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.

ATAGI recommends a third dose as part of the primary course in individuals who are severely immunocompromised and outline immunocompromising conditions and therapies for which a 3rd primary dose is recommended.

This advice applies to all people aged 12 years or older who fit the criteria outlined.

An mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) is preferred to Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) for the third dose but AstraZeneca can be used under certain conditions.

The recommended interval for the third dose is two to six months after the second dose of vaccine. A minimum interval of 4 weeks may be considered in exceptional circumstances (e.g., anticipated intensification of immunosuppression; outbreaks).

Antibody testing is not recommended to assess for immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following vaccination, including in immunocompromised people.

As a vaccine provider you can record the third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) as per the usual. Entering a third dose does not impact the vaccination status in AIR. 

See the full recommendations which outline immunocompromising conditions and therapies for which a third primary dose is recommended and rationale for the recommendations.



Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now available to people aged 60 years and older

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, has announced that from 1 October 2021, all people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines regardless of where they live.

This now brings commonwealth, state and territory eligibility criteria in to line.   


 

Vaccine  Eligible populations*
Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)
  • People aged 60 years or older
  • People aged 18–59 years after discussion with a qualified health professional
Comirnaty (Pfizer)
  • All people aged 12 years and older

Spikevax (Moderna)

  • All people aged 12 years and older

No vaccine is yet approved for use in Australia for children under the age of 12.

COVID-19 vaccination is available and free for all people living in Australia aged 12 years and older, including:

  • all Medicare-eligible Australians
  • all visa-holders, including refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders, and those on bridging visas
  • people currently residing in detention facilities, including those whose visas have been cancelled. 

 

 

The Department of Health (DoH) has released resources and information for health professionals on COVID-19 vaccinations:

 

Key resources include:

 

Resources for specific patient groups:

 

ATAGI Statements:


Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) resourses:


Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)​ statements:

 

RANZCOG:


Thrombosis and Haemostasis Society of Australia and New Zealand (THANZ):

 

Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre:

 

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) resources include:


Also see the 'Where can i find the latest patient resources?' section of this website for resources written for consumers, including decision support guides. 

Can our practice refuse face-to-face consultations for unvaccinated individuals?

The RACGP has always believed in general practice autonomy. Practices must prioritise protecting GPs and practice staff from COVID-19.

If your practice were to implement such a requirement, you must be mindful that you are subject to regulatory requirements such as the Medical Board’s code of conduct and may be inadvertently unlawfully discriminating against some patients.  This may make you subject to compliance investigations and/or professional conduct complaints or complaints to the Human Right Commission or equivalent state bodies. This is particularly relevant where a person cannot be vaccinated due to a medical condition, their age (i.e. children under 12 are currently not eligible), or their religious beliefs.

If your practice decides to require patients be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a certain date in order to attend face-to-face consultations that decision should be made in the context of your individual practice. That includes the health status of clinicians, the needs of the local population, alternate access points to receive primary health care in your area, stocks of personal protective equipment, whether the patient is presenting with or without respiratory symptoms, what continuity of care needs the patient has and what the current outbreak setting is in your location.

In the absence of a Public Health Order mandating vaccination before obtaining a health service, the RACGP urges practices to tread extremely carefully and consider whether other measures such as robust infection control processes, as well as considering whether a telehealth consultation is an appropriate alternative.

Continuing to provide services to these patients may provide you with ongoing opportunities to discuss vaccination with these patients. We believe that many patients who are hesitant may decide to have the vaccine after they have had a discussion with their GP who is a trusted source of information.

This is an emerging field in law and in the first instance the RACGP recommends that practices wishing to pursue this avenue should have a conversation with their Medical Defence Organisation to discuss the individual circumstances of your practice.


Ongoing expression of interest in participating in the vaccine rollout in general practice

A standing expression of interest is open for new general practices interested in joining the COVID-19 vaccination program.
To be eligible to join the program, your practice must either be:

  • an accredited practice and hold a current and valid accreditation through the National General Practice Accreditation Scheme

OR

  • a non-accredited practice administering vaccines under the National Immunisation Program.

If you want to join the program at any stage, contact your local Primary Health Network.
 

Ordering stock and consumables

Vaccine stock and consumables can be ordered through the online portal

If you're having issues with ordering or delivery of vaccines and consumables, contact the Vaccine Operations Centre hotline on 1800 318 208 or email COVID19VaccineOperationsCentre@Health.gov.au


COVID-19 vaccination training program

As part of the rollout, authorised vaccine providers will need to complete mandatory COVID-19 vaccination training. Participants are notified by email when updates are made and are expected to log on and review the changes. 

If you are experiencing technical issues with the training modules, please use the chat function (Available Monday - Friday, 8.00 am - 6.00 pm (AEST)) or contact COVID19VaccinationTraining@Health.gov.au


Excess dose policy

To minimise vaccine wastage, the Federal Department of Health’s (DoH) excess dose policy outlines strategies for using these doses before they expire. 

Strategies include maintaining a reserve list of eligible patients and contacting those who haven’t made an appointment, bringing forward appointments, or identifying patients or staff who fit the eligibility criteria and who are at the practice when the excess doses are identified.

The policy allows for practices to contact and vaccinate patients or staff who will be eligible in future phases if no currently eligible person is available.
 

Advertising COVID-19 vaccines at your practice

The TGA have updated their guidance on communicating about COVID-19 vaccines to reflect changes in COVID-19 vaccine advertising rules.  

Subject to certain conditions these changes allow organisations to:

  • generate their own informational material to support COVID-19 vaccines
  • offer rewards to people who have been fully vaccinated under the Government's national COVID-19 vaccination program
  • use materials produced by the Australian Government or an Australian state or territory government to promote COVID-19 vaccines
  • publicly present factual and balanced information, that is not promotional and therefore not subject to the advertising rules, about the COVID-19 vaccines.
The changes also exempt health professionals from the prohibition of endorsing a medicine or other therapeutic good, in relation to registered COVID-19 vaccines ONLY. 


Practices taking part in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout can use resources and templates developed by the Department of Health to inform their patients that they are only providing a specific brand of vaccine: 

The RACGP has prepared an overview of the MBS items available to assess patients for their suitability to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Visit RACGP's MBS webpage for full item descriptors and rebates. 
 

MBS funding for third vaccine doses

Individuals who are severely immunocompromised are now recommended to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the primary course.

Assessment of suitability for these third doses are eligible for MBS reimbursement with the same rules as suitability assessments for second doses. The same second dose MBS items are used, including when a medical practitioner performs a suitability assessment for a patient and determines they are not suitable for a third vaccine dose. 

Flag fall and in-depth patient assessments may also be claimed if all other eligibility requirements are met (in-depth patient assessments can only be claimed once per patient). The additional Practice Incentives Program (PIP) payment for administering COVID-19 vaccines is not claimable for a third dose. It remains payable only when the first and second vaccine doses are administered at the same general practice. 

More information on MBS support for COVID-19 vaccines is available on MBS Online and the RACGP website

 

Billing COVID-19 vaccine appointments

MBS COVID-19 vaccination services cannot be made contingent on any other service or fee. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • patient registration fees for patients new to a practice
  • bookkeeping or registration fees for the appointment
  • general health checks (these should be incorporated into the bulk billed patient eligibility assessment or bulk billed in-depth patient assessment)
  • any other service which the practice or practitioner requires before any COVID-19 MBS item.

In almost all cases, co-claiming will only be permitted where another GP or other medical practitioner (OMP) service is provided that is unrelated to the vaccine assessment item. However, where a patient suffers a significant adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine, the GP or OMP is permitted to provide another MBS-rebateable service in order to provide appropriate treatment.

A significant adverse reaction includes, but is not limited to, systemic reactions such as syncopal episodes and severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis. It may also include a strong, adverse mental/emotional reaction to the vaccination. Severe adverse reactions are expected to be rare.

Services provided to a patient suffering a significant adverse reaction should be bulk billed.

For more information on billing requirements for vaccine appointments, visit MBS Online.

 

Practice Incentives Program (PIP) – COVID-19 vaccine general practice incentive

An accredited general practice that has completed two vaccine suitability assessment services for the same patient is eligible for a $10 payment (payable only once per patient) under the Practice Incentives Program (PIP).

The Australian Government has released guidelines for the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) – COVID-19 Vaccine General Practice Incentive.
 

Practice incentive payment for proving in-reach residential aged care and disability support worker COVID-19 vaccinations

If your practice is, or has been, providing dedicated in-reach COVID-19 vaccination services for workers in residential aged care or disability care settings, additional funding is available.  
 
This funding includes: 

  • a $1,000 payment when 50 unvaccinated residential aged care or disability support workers (cumulative) receive a COVID-19 vaccination (one dose) at an in-reach clinic 

  • $20 for every dose provided to an unvaccinated residential aged care or disability support worker thereafter (with a maximum payment of $40 per worker for two doses). 

These payments are in addition to existing MBS flag fall arrangements, the MBS COVID-19 vaccine suitability assessment items and other practice incentive payments associated with COVID-19 vaccines. 
 
To receive the payment, report any clinics you conducted between 29 April 2021 and 31 October 2021 through the ‘In Reach Vaccination Reporting’ tab now live on the COVID-19 Vaccine Administration System.

You can find out more about the new payments on the Department of Health website
 

Educational resources for providers administering COVID-19 vaccines on MBS billing

Services Australia has published tailored infographics to support providers billing MBS COVID-19 vaccine suitability assessment items. 

The infographics clarify billing requirements for: 


A list of vaccine suitability assessment items for use by GPs and other medical practitioners can be viewed here


For more information on changes for health professionals during the COVID-19 response, visit the Coronavirus information for health professionals page. 


The Health Professional Education Resources Gateway has a designated page for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. It contains a range of educational resources to support you with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Follow these steps to access the resources: 

  1. In your browser search medicareaust.com/index 

  1. Select play to continue 

  1. Select the Health Professional Education Resources Gateway link 

  1. Select the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout menu tab on the left 


If you would like to provide feedback on any of these resources, you can email Medicare.Education@servicesaustralia.gov.au 


Patients can access information on COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccine roll-out via the Department of Health (DoH) COVID-19 vaccine website. This is website is updated regularly as new information becomes available.
 

Information about COVID-19 vaccinations:

 

About the Astrazeneca vaccine:

 

About the Pfizer vaccine:

 

About the Moderna vaccine:

 

Information for specific patient groups:

Easy read fact sheets are also available. 


How to get proof of vaccination against COVID-19

Patients can follow guidance on the following Services Australia webpage to secure proof of vaccination against COVID-19:

As stated within the linked Services Australia webpage, patients who do not own a smartphone, or who are unable to access proof of vaccination online for any reason, are able to request that their vaccine provider print a copy of their immunisation history for them.

Patients are also able to call the Australian Immunisation Register to request a hard copy of their COVID-19 digital certificate, which will then be sent to them via mail. However, this can take up to 14 days to arrive at their preferred address.

 



Supporting COVID-19 vaccination uptake in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 12 and over eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are an identified priority population.  

To ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families are safe when lockdowns ends, increasing vaccination rates in these communities is critical. 

You can help increase vaccination rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by: 

  • ensuring your practice provides an opportunity for patients to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and have their response recorded in your clinical information systems 

  • runing a search of your practice records for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and checking their vaccination status via the Australian Immunisation Register or My Health Record 

  • contacting all eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and offering priority vaccination to ensure they are safe when lockdown ends 

  • If they say yes, book them in (if your practice is vaccinating) or let them know local vaccination centres and how to book 

  • If they say no, invite them in to discuss the vaccine. 

  • offering vaccination when patients attend for other reasons. 


The DoH has developed new materials to support you in communicating COVID-19 vaccine information with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, including: 

  • talking points to assist you in having conversations about COVID-19 vaccines  
  • guidance on TGA advertising restrictions, explaining how you can inform your patients about what vaccines are available in your clinic via social mediaposters and your practice website 
  • video animation explaining what to expect on the day of vaccination, possible side effects and the need for two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine 
  • videos with Indigenous community leaders and testimonials by real people 

You can find these and other resources on the DoH website.  

 

You can support the cultural safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients by:  

  • ensuring your practice is welcoming and inclusive (see Step 1: Providing effective, culturally safe healthcare on the NACCHO/RACGP Resource Hub for advice) 
  • encouraging all practice staff to do cultural awareness training (offered free of charge to RACGP members and for a nominal fee for other practice staff via gplearning).     

 

Other resources include:

Vaccine information for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities 

The Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine website has information available in 63 languages. To access information in a language other than English, select ‘Information in your language’ within the blue header.

The DoH has updated a stakeholder pack to support you in communicate and share COVID-19 vaccine information with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including in-language: 

  • videos 
  • audio
  • posters
  • easy-to-read factsheets
  • social media resources
 

National Coronavirus Helpline: In-language assistance

Culturally and linguistically diverse patients can now access in-language information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination and book a vaccination appointment through the National Coronavirus Helpline.

The service is supported by Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS) National, whose interpreters speak 150 languages. In-language resources can be sent to callers after the call.

To access this service, people should contact TIS National on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the National Coronavirus Helpline.
 


Booking onsite interpreters

You can book onsite interpreters on weekends for COVID-19 vaccination purposes by emailing tis.freeinterpreting@homeaffairs.gov.au.

 

Vaccine access for Medicare-ineligible patients

If patients are not eligible for Medicare, providers can still supply COVID vaccines to these patients, but cannot bill for this service (Medicare or otherwise). 

Medicare ineligible people can receive the vaccine from any Commonwealth Vaccination Clinic or a state/territory vaccination hub.

 

Recording vaccination details in the Australian Immunisation Register for Medicare-ineligible patients

The Victorian Refugee Health Network, together with EACH, has developed a step-by-step guide to help you manually upload vaccine details to the Australian Immunisation Register for patients who are not eligible for Medicare.

Doing this will enable Medicare-ineligible people to access their proof-of-vaccination certificate.


The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for monitoring the safety of all vaccines approved for use in Australia. 

You can find weekly COVID-19 vaccine safety reports, information on Australia's vaccine monitoring system and information on reporting suspected vaccine side effects, on the TGA website.

 

 

Public Health Orders are in place in states and territories mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers, some of which include and some of which exclude GPs.

The Commonwealth government has mandated that all workers, contractors and volunteers in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) be vaccinated against COVID-19. These requirements are implemented by state and territory Public Health Orders.

Below is a list of Public Health Orders in each state and territory relating to healthcare workers which may affect GPs. Please click on the specific order to view specific requirements.

If team members are affected by these orders and refuse to be vaccinated, they are not legally allowed to work at the premise and may be terminated.

Other public health orders exist that may impact GPs working in specific areas such as hotel-quarantine etc.
 

State / Territory Public Health Order Includes general practice staff? Date 1st dose required by Date 2nd dose required by
Australian Capital Territory Public Health (Aged Care Workers COVID-19 Vaccination) Emergency Direction 2021 No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility 17 September 2021 Not stated
  Announced 5 October 2021 - Awaiting order Will apply to staff who have the highest risk of coming into contact with people who have COVID, frontline healthcare workers in hospitals, in any healthcare facility operated by Canberra Health Services, and in day hospitals, hospices, ambulance services and other patient transport. 29 October 2021 1 December 2021
Northern Territory COVID-19 Directions (No. 55) 2021 Yes 12 November 2021 24 December 2021
  Mandatory vaccination in residential aged care No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility

However COVID-19 Directions (No. 55) 2021 will apply
17 September 2021 31 October 2021
New South Wales Public Health (COVID-19 Vaccination of Health Care Workers) Order 2021 No – General practice has been excluded from the order 30 September 2021 30 November 2021
 
  Public Health (COVID-19 Aged Care Facilities) Order 2021 No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility 17 September 2021
 
Not stated
Queensland Residential Aged Care Direction (No. 9) No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility 17 September 2021 31 October 2021
  Queensland Health worker requirement No unless working in a Queensland Health facility 30 September 2021 31 October 2021
South Australia Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 41) (COVID-19) Direction No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility 17 September 2021 Must have received, or has evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose by 17 September 2021
  Emergency Management (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021
 
No unless providing services in public or private hospital or an ambulance service 1 November 2021 Within one month of the first dose
Tasmania Mandatory Vaccination of Certain Workers - No. 5 Yes – This order covers both Residential Aged Care and health and medical facilities 17 September 2021 31 October 2021
Victoria

COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Directions (No 4)

Yes – This order covers both Residential Aged Care and health and medical facilities 29 October 2021 for healthcare facility - Evidence of booking must be provided by 15 October

1 October for residential aged care facility
15 December 2021 for healthcare facility

15 November for residential aged care facility
Western Australia Directions have been announced to align requirements for GPs, practice staff and other healthcare workers with tier 2 requirements of the HEALTH WORKER (RESTRICTIONS ON ACCESS) DIRECTIONS (No 3)
 
Yes Dependent on facility

General practice will be required by 1 November 2021
 
Dependent on facility

General practice will be required by 1 December 2021
  RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE FACILITY WORKER ACCESS DIRECTIONS No unless providing services in a residential aged care facility

However the above direction will apply 
17 September 2021 Not stated

Vaccinations for general practice

The RACGP considers that vaccination of healthcare workers supports the medical profession’s duty of care and builds vaccine confidence in the community. While not mandatory in all jurisdictions at this stage, the RACGP strongly encourages all GPs and members of the practice team to be vaccinated against COVID-19, for their own protection and the protection of their patients.  

If your practice wishes to implement vaccination requirements for team members and you are in a jurisdiction where it is not mandatory by public health order, you must do so with great consideration and within the workplace laws outlined by your state or territory. Due consideration must be taken as to the risk an unvaccinated staff member is to the practice, what their role involves, their contact with other team members and patients and their access to and willingness to wear appropriate PPE.

The RACGP’s Standards for General Practices (5th edition) provide guidance on staff vaccination, but do not delve into legal requirements. Practices should seek individual legal advice from their MDO.

Avant and Safe Work Australia provide useful information regarding situations where staff refuse vaccination, however, both of these webpages reiterate that these situations are often intricate, and that legal advice is always recommended.

The RACGP recommends regularly updating practice staff immunisation policies to ensure any new recruits are aware of vaccination obligations and expectations during the recruitment process.

  

We know that many of you have already had requests from patients for exemption from receiving the vaccine.

At this time, COVID-19 vaccination is only mandatory for certain designated workers in some jurisdictions. Each public health order outlines who may be exempt from the order and what documentation is required as evidence.

In most cases, exemption is strictly limited to those who have a medical contraindication (as outlined in the ATAGI clinical guidance) to all available COVID-19 vaccines. Temporary exemptions may be warranted due to an acute major medical condition (e.g. undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness), until complete recovery from acute COVID-19 illness (up to 6 months) or where there is a serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and without another cause identified. The Minister signing the Public Health Order can exempt individuals or cohorts as they consider appropriate.

GPs are authorised to record a patient’s permanent or temporary vaccination exemption to the Australian Immunisation Register using the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) - immunisation medical exemption form (IM011). See the ATAGI Expanded Guidance on temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines for further information on appropriately recording exemptions.

The RACGP is working with federal, state and territory governments to clarify how exemptions will be managed when proof-of-vaccination systems are implemented in the coming months and how recording of an exemption to AIR can translate to public health order documentation requirements. 


Australian Government No-fault COVID-19 indemnity scheme

On 28 August 2021, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt announced more details about the no-fault COVID-19 indemnity scheme that will come into effect on Monday 6 September 2021.

The scheme offers protection to Australians receiving vaccines as well as health professionals administering them. It will cover the costs of injuries above $5000 due to a proven adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccination, and payments will be fully funded by the Commonwealth. 

The Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) will provide guidance on recognised adverse reactions as part of its established surveillance program.

Australians who suffer injury and loss of income due to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine can now register their intent to claim via the the Department of Health website.

The scheme will be backdated to February 2021.


Professional indemnity coverage through your MDO
Each of the major medical defence organisations has released information addressing professional indemnity coverage for members providing COVID-19 vaccinations. If you are insured by another provider, contact that company directly regarding your coverage.

In summary, if you hold a professional indemnity policy and your scope of practice includes prescribing or administering vaccines, you will be covered in a similar way to other vaccination programs in the event of an adverse reaction following vaccination. 

National webinars

Webinar Date Time Host Registration
General Practice COVID-19 update Every Thursday  11.30 am - 12.00 pm (AEST) Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health View upcoming and previous webinars
TTS and the use of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine in younger populations – An update for GPs (RECORDED 26 July 2021) On demand On demand A/Prof Vivien Chen, Dr Danny Hsu, A/Prof Charlotte Hespe, Dr Ai-Vee Chua View here
A GP’s guide to thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (RECORDED 31 May 2021) On demand On demand A/Prof Vivien Chen, Dr Danny Hsu, A/Prof Charlotte Hespe, Dr Ai-Vee Chua View here


Department of Health (DoH) resources

You can subscribe to receive the DoH 'COVID-vaccine updates' direct to your inbox.
 

Therapeutic Goods Administration resources

Give the world a shot – Supporting vaccine access in lower-income countries

UNICEF and the Immunisation Coalition are issuing an urgent plea to Australians to help close the global COVID-19 vaccination gap by making a tax-deductible donation to UNICEF Australia to deliver two billion vaccines in lower-income countries.
You can display these posters in your waiting room or pre/post-vaccine clinic spaces to encourage people to donate following their vaccination.

Give the world a shot poster (pre vaccination version)
Give the world a shot poster (post-vaccination version)

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