‘Sorry’: Hunt slams GP’s vaccine suggestion
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has slammed calls from a Toorak doctor to charge patients for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking on Sunday, Mr Hunt said a medic from the elite Melbourne suburb had expressed his desire to charge patients for the coronavirus vaccine, despite both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses being free of charge.
"I did have one Toorak doctor who talked to me about how much they wanted to charge patients," Mr Hunt told reporters.
"We said sorry - this is bulk billed. This is something that we have striven for. Worked for as a society. This is free."
Mr Hunt, who was vaccinated alongside former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday, spoke to reporters after announcing more than 4500 GP clinics had been enlisted to help with the vaccine rollout in a bid to keep it on schedule.
Local doctors will be brought in for phase 1b of the rollout, which targets older people and those with certain underlying conditions, from March 22.
Mr Hunt said GPs would be paid "three times as much" per vaccine administered as they were for more common jabs such as the flu inoculation - making calls for it to be privatised even more outrageous.
Mr Hunt said bringing in local doctors to help with the rollout would "ensure an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country".
Until now, the vaccines had only been administered at hospitals and aged care centres.
Overall, more than 4,500 accredited general practices will participate in Phase 1b of Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout which he says is one of the greatest logistic challenges in the nation's history.
"More than 1,000 general practices will commence from the week of March 22, with a rapid scale-up over the following four weeks. This will ensure an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country," Mr Hunt said.
"Phase 1b of the rollout includes vulnerable populations, such as older people and people with certain underlying conditions."
The strategy to rapidly deliver vaccine inoculations includes a collaboration between the Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).
The rollout start dates are to be staggered with dosage allocation, to be dependent on vaccine availability.
Ms Gillard in a press conference said people need to trust government sources on the virus, with the litany of anti-vaxxer conspiracies online feeding the public with false information.
"The vaccine is safe, its effect of, it's free, it will prevent you from getting seriously ill, so it is in your interests to take it as soon as you have the opportunity to do so in accordance with the Australian government rollout," she said.
"You do need to be looking at the health (websites) like the Australian government information and make sure that what you are getting is from scientist, not social media influences."
AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said general practitioners (GPSs) have a proven track record with flu vaccinations of older Australians and those living with chronic disease who would make up the majority of the Phase 1B rollout.
"It is very pleasing to see the majority of GPs putting up their hands to participate in this critical national program," Dr Khorshid said.
"General practice is highly accessible for people and has helped Australia achieve some of the highest rates of vaccination in the world."
"Patients see their GP for trusted advice and support and rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine through general practice is the best way to encourage the community to get vaccinated."
RACGP president Dr Karen Price said the approach is built on a platform of trust and knowledge and it was a historic and logistically-challenging project.
"We already have the trust of our patients and communities and can ensure that those who are ready to be vaccinated can be, and those who are unsure can have their questions answered to help them decide," Dr Price said.
To complement the Phase 1B rollout, GP-led Respiratory Clinics and Aboriginal community Controlled Health Services will also help to deliver vaccines.
ACRRM president Sarah Chalmers said the equitable distribution points across the country means all vulnerable patients will be able to access the vaccine.
Nationally, there will be more than 130 Respiratory Clinics and more than 300 Aboriginal community Controlled Health Service sites supporting the Phase 1b roll out.
Originally published as 'Sorry': Hunt slams GP's vaccine suggestion