29 October 2021

RACGP: Anxiety over vaccine mandates will not exempt you from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is warning patients that they will not receive a COVID-19 vaccine exemption on the grounds of anxiety over vaccine mandates.

It comes following an anti-vaxxer group providing followers with advice to seek a vaccine exemption on the grounds of “acute major anxiety caused by the threat of a mandatory medical procedure”.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) Expanded Guidance, which was prepared to support completion of an immunisation exemption form, notes that exemptions can be granted for “acute major medical illness”, which ATAGI describes as undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness. Anxiety is not listed as a condition for vaccine exemption.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said that the cynical ploy would not succeed.

“You will not receive an exemption from your GP if you report anxiety about the vaccine mandate,” she said.

“Anxiety is taken extremely seriously by GPs, and we are here to help any patient who presents with this condition or any other mental health issue. However, anxiety about the vaccine mandate is not grounds for an exemption.

“Instead of seeking an exemption, why not talk to your GP about the concerns you have. We are experts in providing evidence-based information, GPs do this every day for other vaccinations and it’s a key part of our day-to-day job.

“Vaccine mandates may restrict employment opportunities for some unvaccinated people, but no individual will ever be forcibly vaccinated. GPs live by the Hippocratic Oath and will not administer any medical care or treatment without patient consent.

“GPs and general practice teams have a lot on their plate at the minute. We are busy delivering COVID-19 vaccines and playing catch up on delayed healthcare due to patients delaying or avoiding screenings and consults during the pandemic.

“The last thing we need is groups of people emerging from the woodwork demanding a vaccine exemption because of information they have sourced from an anti-vaxxer group.”

Dr Price said that vaccine exemptions should not be freely handed out to patients.

“Only a vanishingly small number of people cannot receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines due to what we call ‘contraindications’”, she said.

“You will be granted an exemption to the AstraZeneca vaccine if you have a history of capillary leak syndrome, or a serious adverse event attributed to a first dose of the vaccine. You will receive an exemption for Pfizer or Moderna if you have experienced anaphylaxis or any other serious adverse event following a first dose of an mRNA vaccine.

“You will not be granted an exemption if you have a history of heart disease or stroke, in fact you it is extra important that you get vaccinated right away.

“There are some ingredients in each vaccine that can cause anaphylaxis for people with a very particular allergy. However, the chances of you being allergic to ingredients in all available vaccines, and therefore exempt from receiving any COVID-19 vaccine, is miniscule.

“So, even if you do have a contraindication to one vaccine, other vaccine options are available. Only a fraction of the overall population should be granted a COVID-19 vaccine exemption and, even then, some people will only have a temporary contraindication.

“I note too that many severely immunocompromised people, such as those receiving treatment for blood cancer, definitely should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, they are now eligible to receive a third primary dose to try and bring their immunity levels up and offer them maximum protection.”

Dr Price said that patients should heed the advice of their GP rather than anti-vaxxer groups.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there, particularly on social media, about the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. Not only that, by getting vaccinated you can help limit community transmission and protect more vulnerable groups, including older people, the severely immunocompromised and children under 12 who cannot yet receive a vaccine.

“It’s not just about you, your actions impact others. This is a deadly virus; it is not worth risking your health and the health of others when you can get vaccinated right now with extremely effective and safe vaccines that are completely free of charge to everyone.

“In Victoria, we should reach the 90% double dose vaccination rate in late November so congratulations to the vast majority of people who are ignoring anti-vaxxer efforts and doing the right thing.  Keep up the great work and well done on helping to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.”

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