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GPs welcome Novavax but need more support with the rollout


24 January 2022

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed news that the Novavax vaccine will soon be available but warned that general practices participating in the vaccine rollout need more assistance in the months ahead.

It comes following the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommending the use of the vaccine, with the roll out commencing on 21 February this year. Australia now has a "double green light" to use Novavax given the Therapeutic Goods Administration provisionally approved the vaccine last week. It will be made available through GPs, state-run vaccination hubs and pharmacies.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the decision was a positive step forward in the vaccine rollout.

"The most important thing is that people get vaccinated against COVID-19," she said.

"All of the vaccines, including Novavax, are extremely safe and effective and will significantly reduce the incidence of people suffering severe effects from the virus, including hospitalisation or worse.

"Novavax will be particularly beneficial for those who have contraindications to other COVID-19 vaccines, including serious reactions to previous doses. Whatever the reason someone will be receiving the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, as with every other vaccine dose administered, I congratulate them for doing their bit in protecting themselves and their communities".

Dr Price warned that practices delivering COVID-19 vaccines need a helping hand.

"General practices participating in the vaccine rollout are doing a tremendous job, but we are under enormous pressure," she said.

"Term one of school starts next week, yet just one in four children aged five to 11 have had their first Pfizer vaccine dose and the vast majority of kids must wait eight weeks before receiving their second.

"Although there are plenty of children's vaccine doses in Australia, the challenge is getting those supplies into practice fridges and then into arms. So, the current deliveries of 100 or 200 vaccines a week per practice are not enough when you consider that some practices have well over 1,500 children in this age group on their books.

"GPs are still reporting doses not arriving on time or insufficient stock being delivered. So general practice teams then have the unenviable task of ringing families and telling them that their child's appointment must be cancelled. This is causing a lot of stress and anxiety and, unfortunately, some people are once again taking their frustration out on exhausted nurses and receptionists.

"Practices are also struggling to absorb the cost of taking part in the rollout. General practice teams did not sign up to make money but at the end of the day they must make ends meet and that is proving very difficult.

"Last year, the RACGP welcomed an additional $10 for practices delivering booster vaccines. However, since then the scale of the task has only grown, and we need the federal Government to step up and provide greater assistance to our hardworking general practice teams. That will enable us to run more after-hours and weekend vaccinations and speed up the pace of the rollout as Omicron cases surge across Australia.

"We are the backbone of the vaccine rollout but we are only human and given that so many pharmacies have opted out of delivering COVID-19 vaccines, general practices are shouldering an increased load.

"GPs and their teams will carry on and get as many doses into arms as possible, but we need more help and that needs to happen right now."