Slow vaccine roll-out ‘problematic’

Mukesh Haikerwal (second from right) at his Altona North Respiratory Clinic. (Joe Mastroianni) 217076_08

Goya Dmytryshchak

A prominent GP says the slow vaccine roll-out to some of the hardest hit COVID-19 areas in Melbourne’s north west continues to be an issue.

Altona North GP and Australian Medical Association state council chair, Mukesh Haikerwal, said the logistics of getting the vaccine into doctors’ fridges was an ongoing problem.

He said the number of practices being asked to administer the vaccine was limited.

“Instead of the 8600 around the country, there’s only 4600 who are destined to do it,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“And out of the 4600, at the most only half will be ready to start receiving vaccines.

“We should be using as many [practices] as we can but we’re not.”

Dr Haikerwal labelled as “atrocious” the lack of vaccinations for residents and staff in some aged care facilities.

“There’s no residents that can’t have the vaccine from AstraZeneca because it’s safe in older people, so that’s what they should be provided with,” he said.

“And the staff in the aged care facilities, if they are eligible for AstraZeneca they should have it.

“If they’re not eligible, then they obviously will have the other vaccines when they become available.”

He said for staff aged under 50, it was “a problem”.

“You’ve got to say, ‘what’s your risk matrix, what’s your age, what other problems have you got, is it enough that on balance it’s better to have the vaccine than not?’

“I think that the vaccines have to be given to Australians.

“This is a setback because the main vaccine that we’re depending on is deemed the wrong vaccine for people 50 and under, and that’s a decision we have to abide by our own people who are very expert in this.

“That is going to dent some confidence in the system and we’ve got to make sure we get the confidence back because the best thing we can do this year is to get everybody vaccinated.

“That will take us out of the COVID era and hopefully let us get back to normal.”