The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is warning that more support is needed for GPs to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to children.
It comes after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation's (ATAGI) recommended the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for all children aged 5 to 11 years. Appointments are scheduled to open for children within this age range on the Government’s Vaccine Clinic Finder from January 10, 2022.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the vaccine rollout to children was critical.
“We need to vaccinate as many children as we can as quickly as we can to protect our community, particularly as we’re seeing rising cases of both the Omnicron and Delta variants in Australia. And we know schools and children mixing have been a big source of infections,” Dr Price said.
“General practice is the backbone of the rollout, we’ve delivered more than half of all doses in our country so far, and we’re ideally placed to deliver childhood vaccinations.
“GPs do routine immunisations for children every day. We know it can be daunting for children, as well as parents, and we have the training and expertise to make the experience as comfortable as possible. That’s why most parents naturally want to go to their GP for their child’s vaccine.”
The RACGP President said vaccinating children was a more complex task.
“The problem we face with rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to children is that vaccinating children is a more complex job, compared to adults,” she said.
“Children require more time and care, as well as space because their parents come with them, and this has to be factored in by practices planning vaccine clinics.
“Without appropriate funding, it will be harder for practices to get the job done and make ends meet at the end of the day. And while GPs don’t get into this career for the money, our practices need to remain viable.
“The last two years have been very challenging for many practices. They’ve been under pressure managing the pandemic, delivering our nation’s largest vaccine rollout, and managing ongoing care for patients. Many practices are operating on wafer thin margins, and some are actually losing money on the vaccine rollout.
“On top of this, many practices are taking on even more because other vaccinators are pulling out of the rollout and some states are scaling back or closing their state vaccine hubs.
“In an ideal world we would be able to vaccinate all children by the time the school year starts, because we know it has been a signifcant source of infections, and it’s disruptive for children when schools have to close.
“However, it is a mammoth task. We need to throw everything we have at it, not try to get the job done with one hand tied behind our backs.”