The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling on the federal Government to urgently repair the nation’s troubled vaccine rollout to children aged 5 to 11.
It comes following widespread reports of practices receiving insufficient stock or expired vaccine doses, having orders cancelled at the last minute or doses not arriving without any explanation.
The RACGP has urged the federal Government to:
work with state and territory governments to make additional state and territory-allocated paediatric vaccines available for use in general practices
ensure general practices receive the vaccine doses they have requested when they need them
make more doses available to general practices who have the capacity to deliver additional vaccines
improve lines of communication with GPs and their teams and advise ahead of time if deliveries are going to be delayed
provide a funding boost to practices so that they can accommodate more children’s vaccinations.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said that there was no time to lose.
“GPs and their practice teams are trying to vaccinate the nation’s children with one arm tied behind their back,” she said.
“Omicron cases are escalating and term one of school is fast approaching. Urgent improvements to the children’s vaccine rollout must happen now so that our kids can receive at least one vaccine dose before returning to the classroom.
“GPs are telling me that they can’t obtain enough stock, whilst others have had their orders cancelled at the last minute or received expired doses. Some practices are being given 50 or 100 doses a week when they have around 1,500 children on their books. It’s not hard to do the maths and realise that we simply cannot keep up with demand.
“I’m concerned that once again people will take out their frustrations on exhausted practice teams doing their best in a very challenging situation. I hope families don’t throw their hands up in the air and give up on getting their children vaccinated.
“Whilst Lieutenant General John Frewen is correct in stating that there are more than enough doses in Australia to vaccinate all children, this doesn’t necessarily mean that practices have sufficient stock in their fridge ready to go. The Government must improve the logistics so that enough stock arrives on our doorsteps when we need it.”
Dr Price said that more doses should be allocated to general practice.
“We need to recalibrate how doses are being distributed nation-wide,” she said.
“Children’s vaccine doses have been delivered to state-run vaccine hubs and general practices. The issue is that many parents and carers want to have their children vaccinated by their family GP because people know and trust them.
“We immunise children every year and have the training and expertise to make the experience as comfortable as possible. So, the federal Government needs to work with the state and territory governments to make additional state and territory-allocated paediatric vaccines available for use in general practice.”
The RACGP President said that practices must always be front of mind.
“Once again, communication with general practice teams has been lacking,” she said.
“Some practices awaiting delivering of vaccines didn’t receive any doses and no explanation was provided. We are working under an extraordinary amount of pressure and families are understandably anxious to have their children vaccinated.
“So, the federal Government needs to make clear and transparent communication with general practice teams a high priority.”
Dr Price also called for more funding for practices participating in the vaccine rollout.
“Children require more time and care, as well as space because their parents or carers come with them, and this has to be factored in by practices planning vaccine clinics,” she said.
“Late last year we cautiously welcomed an increase in payments for practices delivering booster vaccines. However, vaccinating children is a more complex and time-consuming task compared to adults and we believe practices need more support.
“Without appropriate funding, it is harder for practices to get the job done and make ends meet at the end of the day. The Government must be mindful that practices need to remain viable and right now our resources are being sorely stretched.”