The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging patients to get their COVID-19 vaccinations once they are eligible.
It comes following the recalibration of the vaccine rollout – with health authorities recommending people under 50 receive the Pfizer vaccine rather than the AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns of a link to a small number of blood clot cases.
There are reports of the latest developments putting additional stress and strain on general practices. Practices across Australia are receiving calls from people eligible to receive the vaccine under phase 1b cancelling their appointments.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price urged patients to get vaccinated once they were eligible and to talk to their GP if they have concerns about being vaccinated.
“These are uncertain times and I understand why the latest changes to the vaccine rollout may be confusing for some people,” she said.
“But we must hold the line and keep faith in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“We won’t be able to protect our community unless people put their hand up to be vaccinated. So, when you are eligible to be vaccinated, I urge you to get vaccinated and discuss with your GP any concerns you have.
“Not only that, please spread the word to friends, family and colleagues that they should do the same. GPs will be doing their best to advise their patients and that will be crucial; however, for some people hearing the message about the importance of vaccination from a close family member or friend can make all the difference.
“Say to them that this is still a very safe vaccine and the risk of adverse effects is extremely small. Because we currently have no COVID-19 community transmission in Australia, we can afford to wait to vaccinate people under 50 with another vaccine.
“Unlike many other countries, we do have time on our hands and again I stress that this is a very safe vaccine with extremely rare risks of side effects. We need as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
“The fact that the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advised against people under the age of 50 receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the extremely low likelihood of adverse side effects highlights just how cautious experts are being with this rollout. We are aiming to keep people as safe as possible from harm.”
With some patients cancelling their vaccine appointments, Dr Price also warned about anti-vaxxer messaging.
“I strongly suspect that anti-vaxxers will try and use the shift in vaccine rollout as a new opportunity to spread suspicion and fear on social media – that is what they do,” she said.
“We can’t let them get away with this because if people don’t get vaccinated and contract this virus, the consequences can be deadly.”
Amid the changes to the rollout plan, Dr Price reiterated calls for patients to be respectful of general practice staff.
“I urge all patients to please treat general practice staff, including receptionists and administrative workers, with respect,” she said.
“General practices are not the ones making decisions on which vaccines will be rolled out and when. We are simply doing our best to follow the advice and play our role in getting jabs in arms as soon as possible.
“So, if you are speaking on the phone to a receptionist just remember that they deserve courtesy and respect. This has been a very trying time for many GPs, nurses, receptionists and administrative staff and the last thing they need is additional stress.
“Let’s all work together, remain calm, ignore anti-vaxxer messaging and get the jab when we are eligible to receive it.”