One of the reservation sites contracted by the federal government for the deployment of the Covid vaccine falsely allows Australians to reserve for their second dose. a few days after their first injection, a problem according to general practitioners worsens the demand of their clinics.
The next stage of the vaccine’s deployment, phase 1b, officially began on Monday, allowing a cohort of 6 million Australians at higher risk to start receiving their vaccinations at around 1,000 GP clinics or 100 respiratory clinics run by the Commonwealth.
GPs involved in the rollout continued to report huge demand and low supply of vaccine doses. GPs have been inundated since Wednesday, when the government launched its Covid-19 vaccination eligibility checker and booking coordination website, which linked the cohort of 6 million people to their participating GP clinic the closest.
Richard Nguyen, a general practitioner in Kareela in southern Sydney, said his clinic was already booked until July for Covid-19 vaccinations and was only receiving around 80 doses per week.
“Basically we are set aside for three months to receive the first dose. This is for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we only get 80 doses per week, ”he told The Guardian.
Nguyen said the clinic was taking reservations from HealthEngine, a private healthcare reservation website hired by the government to roll out the vaccine. HealthEngine provides an online reservation service to 70,000 general practitioners and health practices in Australia, claims to have 1.5 million monthly users and has major investors including Telstra and Seven West Media.
He said the system allowed patients to reserve their second dose a month after the first, rather than the recommended three months for most people, which studies show makes the vaccine more effective.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended that the interval between the first and second dose be three months, but the TGA has given approval for this to occur after a minimum of four weeks under certain circumstances, including including in the event of imminent travel, anticancer chemotherapy. , or surgery.
Guardian Australia has independently tested the HealthEngine website and verified that it allows anyone to make second dose reservations well in advance of the recommended three months, without checking if there are any special or extenuating circumstances,
The Guardian’s testing showed that the website allowed second dose bookings within days of the first.
Nguyen said that second-dose bookings from HealthEngine increased demand for his clinic.
“So that also explains why the next available reservation – back on Friday – was July 1st. I guess it’s going to be worse now, ”he said.
“There are a lot of people calling, angry, who want their shots. Receptionists are exhausted from phone calls. “
HealthEngine has been engaged by the health department to provide online reservations for Covid-19. His selection for the job fueled some controversy earlier this month after it was revealed that the company had already been ordered to pay $ 2.9 million in penalties for sharing patient personal information with private health insurance brokers.
The number of general clinics involved in the deployment will increase to 4,500 in the coming weeks, as locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines become available.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said there was no shortage of vaccines, especially after vaccine maker CSL’s interim approval to produce doses of AstraZeneca.
“The important thing to remember is: we have no community transmission of Covid-19 in Australia at the moment,” Kidd told 3AW radio on Monday. “There is no panic for people to get the vaccine, there will be a lot of vaccine doses available to people in the weeks and months to come.”
Maria Boulton, owner of a Brisbane-based GP clinic, was waiting for vaccines to arrive before making reservations.
His clinic will receive around 50 vaccines per week.
It has 15,000 patients alone, not counting the new patients who will come to the clinic for the first time for the vaccine.
“We can do 1,000 a week,” she told The Guardian. “Australian GPs administered 6 million flu shots in the space of six weeks last year. We have enormous capacity and we are ready. We just need the stock. “
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners warned on Monday that there was a risk that people would avoid calling general practitioners for other treatment unrelated to Covid because they feared that demand for clinics would increase further.
The President, Dr Karen Price, urged Australians not to react to such a reaction.
“Please do not delay or avoid a GP consultation because you are concerned that clinics are too busy administering the Covid-19 vaccine,” she tweeted. “Your general practitioner is there for you, please seek treatment for any health problem. I cannot stress enough the importance of this.
HealthEngine has been approached for a response.