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On Monday, the federal government insisted that every clinic that was due to receive vaccination supplies in the first week of phase 1b had received them.
But the Guardian has spoken to a number of GPs who report significant delivery failures, which are making it hard for them to plan vaccine appointments, put on adequate staff and run their business.
Dr Nick Yim, a GP in Hervey Bay, Queensland, was due to get his first vaccine shipment on Thursday but it did not arrive. The clinic was then told there was no way it would arrive before the following Tuesday.
So Dr Yim and his team started cancelling bookings through to Tuesday. About 100 patients were re-booked by his staff. Then, despite government assurances to the contrary, the shipment turned up on Monday.
“That’s where one of the challenges lies,” he said. “I get that there has been floods in New South Wales, and there is a challenge with Covid and the lockdown in Brisbane.”
“But general practice is a private business, and every time we reschedule there are costs involved, such as reception staff overtime.”
Dr Maria Boulton, a GP in Brisbane, which is currently experiencing an outbreak, was also expecting a vaccine shipment on Saturday. It did not arrive.
“We still don’t have them. This is happening all over,” Boulton said early on Tuesday afternoon. “We were planning to hold a vaccine clinic today.”
The vaccines eventually turned up later on Tuesday afternoon, Boulton said. “Days late, but better than never.”
Australia remains well behind its targets for the vaccine rollout. It had initially planned to administer 4m doses by Wednesday, based on 3.8m doses coming from overseas. It revised its target when global supply issues prevented the overseas-produced doses from coming to Australia.
The government now intends to give all Australians a first dose by October.
About 541,761 Australians had been vaccinated by Monday, including 82,542 in 795 aged care facilities.
The rollout is expected to ramp up as more GP clinics are brought online – up from 1,100 currently to more than 4,000 – and local production of the AstraZeneca vaccine increases.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, said last week was “better than my best hopes” given the floods.
“The distribution companies safely made sure that the distributions occurred,” he said. “The doctors and the practise managers and the nurses were able to put them in place. And what we’ll see is a continued acceleration of those vaccinations.
“The latest guidance I have is we remain on track for all of the first doses before the end of October.”
Shadow health minister Mark Butler said the rollout had been “chaotic from the get go”.
“Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt promised GPs they would have supply of the vaccine,” he said.
“The GPs and their staff now have to do the hard work of rescheduling patients and delivering bad news.”
Source: The Guardian
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