People eligible for a COVID-19 jab should wait weeks before even trying to book an appointment as general practitioners struggle to meet demand, the peak doctors’ body in Queensland says.
- Most clinics are reluctant to take bookings without knowing how many doses are in the pipeline from next month
- But people are urged to stick with their regular GP even if that means waiting longer
- Queensland Health updates advice for people with a history of anaphylaxis
It comes as Queensland Health changed its advice today over the AstraZeneca vaccine for people with a history of anaphylaxis, after four adverse reactions in the state this week.
Yesterday Queensland Health warned those at risk of reaction to delay vaccinations, but has since updated that advice to align with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which says they should get vaccinated but be monitored for half an hour afterwards.
Almost a quarter of the Australian population is slated for inoculation from March 22, with those eligible told by the federal health department website they could make bookings with clinics from yesterday.
But many clinics flooded by calls declined to schedule appointments amid uncertainty about when they would be supplied enough doses to meet overwhelming demand.
With the rollout set to broaden to six million people under phase ‘1b’ — including to people aged over 70 and those with specified medical conditions — some frontline healthcare workers are still waiting to receive their jabs under phase ‘1a’.
Dr Bruce Willett, Queensland chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) , said practices like his in Brisbane’s east had tens of thousands of patients “on our books, and we’re getting 80 vaccines a week”.
He said this meant most clinics were already booked out and reluctant to take any more patients without knowing how many doses were in the pipeline from next month.
“In theory, you can book today,” Dr Willett said.
“I think in practise, the vast majority of practices around the country will have already allocated all their vaccine allocations now.
“We’ve organised three weeks worth of clinics and they’re all fully booked out, and we’re just a little bit reticent to organise clinics in the future, because we don’t quite know how many vaccinations we’ll be getting then.
“So we’re just holding off on that, which I think is what a lot of practices are doing.
He said GPs had been reassured that CSL’s Melbourne factory was poised to ramp up to production of one million weekly doses within a fortnight.
“We’re really hopeful those numbers are increased because we just can’t possibly meet anything like the demand,” he said.
Health workers yet to be vaccinated
One registered nurse who works at various south-east Queensland hospitals — speaking to the ABC on condition of anonymity — said she and many of her colleagues were yet to receive vaccinations under 1a.
“I’m going to work in an emergency department on Friday afternoon, and I worked in an emergency department last Saturday,” the nurse said.
“I got talking to a number of other nurses and it’s surprising how many have not had their vaccinations yet.”
The nurse said she worked at an agency and had tried to book a vaccination through a GP but so far had no success.
Dr Willett said his message to patients on behalf of GP clinics was “please don’t ring in these next three weeks — we won’t have appointments available”.
“After that, please do ring — we do want everyone to get vaccinated,” he said.
There are concerns that those with underlying medical conditions may be drawn into a complex process of transferring medical records if their local doctor is unable to supply the vaccine and they have to seek it elsewhere.
‘Better thing’ to wait to see regular GP
Dr Willett urged people to stick with their regular GP even if that meant waiting longer.
“If their usual GP doesn’t have the vaccine now, I would actually suggest they consider waiting till they do, because their usual GP knows them.
“There’s been concerns about allergies and other things, so your usual GP will be aware of those — that’s going to be the better thing.”
The federal Health Department has said the number of clinics offering inoculations nationwide would ramp up from an initial 1,000 to 4,000 over four weeks.
Phase 1b has slated up to 14.8 million doses for people aged over 70, Indigenous people over 55, adults with specified medical conditions, critical and high-risk workers from police to meat workers, and the remainder of all health care workers.