GPs opt out of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Mukesh Haikerwal's respiratory clinic testing for COVID-19. (Damjan Janevski) 207244_02

Goya Dmytryshchak

As GP clinics next week begin the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for those over 70 and people with medical conditions, some western suburbs doctors have opted out over fears about possible AstraZeneca side effects and other concerns.

A pharmacist who spoke on condition of anonymity said several GPs at large medical centres had advised him they did not want to administer vaccines and would send patients to him when he was able to start vaccinating.

This week, the European Union’s drug regulatory agency, European Medicines Agency, said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweighed the risk of side effects.

It said the vaccine “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots” but “may be associated with very rare cases”.

“With the whole AstraZeneca thing, there’s just so much uncertainty┬áinvolved around it,” the pharmacist told Star Weekly.

“Two of the local GP clinics have already opted out, not doing it, and they were saying, if you are doing it we’re quite happy to send our patients to you to do them.”

Altona North GP and Australian Medical Association state council chairman, Mukesh Haikerwal, said he was aware of doctors not administering the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines for a variety of reasons.

“Out of 8600 practices around the country, only 4600 have been chosen so far to provide vaccines,” he said.

“Many have said they’re not going to do it, not because of any other reason but it’s not financial.

“It’s not a thing to be doing for just 50 vaccines – it’s hardly worth going through the enormous amount of bureaucracy to be part of the process and the compliance and the record-keeping and the logging and giving people the thermometer readings … all sorts of ridiculous amounts of compliance.

“There is anxiety about giving the vaccine because it’s a scary disease.

“I think that’s something people need to get over.”

Dr Haikerwal said once the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved a vaccine like Pfizer or AstraZeneca, the indemnity was worn by the individual practitioner.

“At this stage, there is no Crown indemnity, there is no Commonwealth indemnity for anybody,” he said.

“So, if the Crown indemnifies Pfizer or AstraZeneca, so nobody can sue AstraZeneca or Pfizer because they’re indemnified, and somebody has a problem, the next person that it will go to is the poor bastard who gave them the shot.

“So, that’s probably why some doctors are a bit hesitant to say, well, if I’m going to wear this responsibility I’m not sure I want that.”