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GPs call for government to increase supply of children’s vaccine

Doctors around Australia are pleading with the federal and state governments to act urgently to fix a flailing children’s vaccine rollout.

On Monday, more than two million children aged five to 11 became eligible for their Covid-19 vaccination, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there were enough doses for every child to have one before school resumed.

But many GPs are unable to access adequate supplies or cope with demand, with some practices reporting they’re receiving only 50 to 100 doses a week.

Children Vaccinations
Camera IconWhile some children are confident in going to a vaccination hub to get their jab, GPs say most parents want their kids to go to their local doctor. Julianne Osborne Credit: News Corp Australia

Australian Medical Association NSW chair Michael Bonning said given the rollout had been going for 11 months, it was “frustrating” that there were still such serious speed bumps.

“Lots of people are booked and there aren’t enough doses to go around. And even then, for many of the practices who did receive vaccines, it’s nowhere near enough to meet the demand that they have from parents out there in the community,” Dr Bonning told Today.

“We’ve come to trust the government over the last eight or nine months of getting vaccine out to practices, and then to have probably the most important part of the rollout in terms of confidence building for children, not play out well at its opening moments … It’s really difficult to then rebuild that trust.

“People had planned for this, and now there’s uncertainty.”

Children Vaccinations
Camera IconGPs are not able to order enough vaccine supply to meet demand. Credit: News Corp Australia, Julianne Osborne

Royal Australian College of GPs president Karen Price said it was becoming “all too common” for appointments to be moved due to lack of supply.

“We must ensure that vaccine supplies reach practices so that GPs and general practice teams can get on with the job of vaccinating our children,” Dr Price said.

“With term one of school fast approaching, action is needed.”

GPs say the government also did not consider the extra time it takes to vaccinate a child, nor the fact many parents want children to get the jab with their doctor and not at a mass-vaccination hub.

“(GPs are) absolutely the best place for kids to get vaccinated. It’s the place that kids are most comfortable,” Dr Bonning said.

“Going to get a jab can be a scary experience. It’s upsetting for lots of kids, and lots of parents as well.

“So doing it in an environment with a doctor and a nurse who you know is the best place to get it done.

“It’s the one that will secure the most people actually going and getting their vaccine, so it’s frustrating when there’s that loss of trust.”

Camera IconDoctors say more supply needs to be directed to GPs. NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard Credit: News Corp Australia

In order to get the rollout back on track, Dr Bonning said the government needed to stop talking, and start doing.

“Not just say ‘oh, there’s definitely enough vaccines out there’. They need to show that by there being vaccine access in everyone’s general practices,” he said.

Newcastle GP Anna Davidson, who runs a local practice, said the federal authorities needed to talk directly with general practices around the country.

“Our reality is (because of the ordering system) we are limited to 50 vaccines a week,” Dr Davidson told RN.

“It’s an impossibility to try and think about how we’re going to vaccinate all children … that just doesn’t cut it.

“I would say to (Covid-19 vaccination commander) Lieutenant General John Frewen that the government really needs to change their ordering system so GPs can order exactly what they can deliver.”

Mr Morrison said there were 6000 places people could go to get children vaccinated.

“There are 835,000 vaccines in those places right now as of last Friday, and more would have been added to that since last Friday,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

”The aim here is to have as many of the places where you can go and get it.

“If you can’t get it from where you would normally go, know there are 5999 and more other places where these vaccines are on the shelves.”

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