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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Phase 1B vaccinations begin – but not everyone can get it at once

Eighteen general practices in the ACT have started vaccinating their patients against coronavirus this week – the vanguard of 75 GPs that have registered to do so. But with an estimated 100,000 Canberrans eligible to be vaccinated from this week, the ACT government and the Australian Medical Association counsel patients to be patient.

“We’re not going to be making appointments for a quarter of a million doses across the country on Day 1,” Dr Antonio Di Dio, AMA (ACT) president, told ABC Radio on Monday. “If you’re going to manufacture a million doses a week, and we need to give 40 million doses, that’s 40 weeks – so not all are going to get done in the first week.”

Phase 1B of the national coronavirus vaccination rollout began on Monday. Elderly people over 70; Indigenous people over 55; younger adults with underlying medical conditions or disabilities; critical / high risk workers (police, fire, defence, emergency services, meat processing); and other health care workers can now be vaccinated.

All 75 practices could be vaccinating patients within the next six weeks. The first 18 practices will receive on average 50 and 200 doses each week. Rachel Stephen-Smith, Minister for Health, said they had received double the number of Pfizer doses expected for the week of 22 March, so more than 4,000 Pfizer doses are being administered.

Meanwhile, the government is slowly rolling out AstraZeneca at its Garran COVID-19 Surge Centre, Ms Stephen-Smith said; as domestically produced AstraZeneca becomes available, the government will quickly ‘ramp it up’.

Some GPs have contacted particularly vulnerable patients to make appointments; others have taken appointments on a ‘first in, best dressed’ basis; and some have been slower in getting their appointments ‘up and running’ because they were not sure about the supply, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Dr Di Dio said many practices – including his own – were working evenings, whether to give the vaccine or to see patients that practices giving vaccines cannot see.

“We’re all going to be working a lot harder because pretty much everybody’s booked out all the time.”

GP receptionists have been ‘swamped’ with calls, Dr Di Dio said. He recommended that Canberrans should only ring their GPs about vaccines if they cannot find information online.

The Commonwealth’s national coronavirus hotline (1800 020 080) provides up-to-date information about COVID-19 and vaccines. The ACT Government has an information page at https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/.

The ACT Government will have information this week about how people can book into ACT government hubs.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services will vaccinate Indigenous Canberrans. It has received 200 doses this week, which is expected to increase.

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