New way to jump the COVID vaccination queue
Doctors will be encouraged to provide COVID-19 vaccinations after hours and on weekends under a deal that will make it easy for working mums and dads to get their shots without losing income.
News Corp Australia can reveal GP's will earn an extra $12 per jab for vaccinating patients at those times.
And the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the after hours injections were the only way doctors would be able to cope with the demands of the mass vaccination program and continue to treat sick patients during normal business hours.
"We suspect that a lot will have to be done after hours because you still have to do your normal GP work during the day," AMA vice president Dr Chris Moy told News Corp.
"That increases the accessibility for most people, I would think that would be precisely, a useful, time for people to be vaccinated, and convenient," Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president Dr Karen Price said.
Initially only around 1000 of the nation's 7000 medical practices and respiratory clinics will be involved in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, because there is a limited number of jabs available.
AstraZeneca will be supplying one million doses of the locally-produced vaccine per week from late March and small amounts of vaccine will be delivered from overseas..
This means the 14.8 million elderly and immunocompromised patients in line for the first shots may have to visit a medical practice that is different to their normal GP.
People who visit a different GP may need a letter from their doctors to certify they are eligible for vaccination because of their age or medical conditions.
Others may need a letter from their employer to prove they work in an occupation group that means they get priority vaccination.
The Department of Health confirmed it was working on an eligibility checker which would be available on its website.
People who want the vaccine will have to make an appointment for their jab using a national booking system that will be the single entry point for the program.
This booking system is still under development even though vaccinations are due to start within weeks.
Doctors do not yet know how to use it and there is concern it may involve too much red tape.
The AMA said doctors faced a mammoth and extremely tricky task in combining the flu vaccination rollout with the two dose COVID vaccination regimen.
It means they will have to deliver over 60 million vaccinations in a six-month period - two COVID-19 shots plus a flu shot.
Dr Moy said complicating the rollout was a ruling that doctors cannot deliver the flu and the COVID jabs during the same consultation.
"They're not approving that, it's going to have be 14 days apart, which is going to make it really interesting," he said.
Last year, GPs provided six million flu shots in six weeks.
There has been uproar in the US as wealthy people with connected private physicians jump the vaccine queue.
It is unclear how the Australian government will guard against people offering GPs or pharmacists money to fast track their COVID-19 injection.
Dr Moy said GPs will have to record every vaccine they deliver on a person's immunisation record including the batch number of the vial the vaccine is taken from - a potential way of guarding against cheating.
The vaccination rollout faced multiple challenges this week as it emerged a more infectious South African variant of the vaccine might be capable of outsmarting the current vaccines.
Those being rolled out across the globe are much less effective against the new variant.
US company Moderna and Novavax announced they were already working on a booster doses they hoped would combat the new strain and Pfizer said it could produce a vaccine against the new strain within six weeks but it would then have to undergo clinical trials.
And the government had to abandon Prime Minister Scott Morrison's promise that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March as vaccine supply issues emerged.
AstraZeneca will be delivering only 1.2 million of the promised 3.8 million vaccinations manufactured overseas by late February. It does not know when the remainder will be delivered.
The first 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due to arrive in early March but a cloud now hangs over the timing of the delivery of the ten million doses of this vaccine.
Pfizer has announced production delays as it refits its European plants to ramp up production from 1.3 billion doses to 2 billion by the end of this year.
European nations have threatened to stop the export of the Pfizer vaccine as they try to secure enough doses for their own populations as they experience a crippling resurgence of the virus.
Australia is producing over 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the CSL plant in Melbourne with the first of these doses due to be delivered in late March.
Originally published as New way to jump the COVID vaccination queue