COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy plays out at Australian medical practices

My Medical Practice Charnwood director Shravan Bolli. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
My Medical Practice Charnwood director Shravan Bolli. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Australian general practitioners are seeing the effects of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, with roughly a third of patients booked in to get the jab at one clinic cancelling their appointments.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommend early in April that people under 50 get the Pfizer vaccine over the AstraZeneca vaccine, because of concerns of a link to extremely rare blood clotting.

My Medical Practice Charnwood director Shravan Bolli said more than 500 people had been booked in at the clinic to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. Of them, at least 30 per cent had called up to cancel.

"People need to take [getting vaccinated] more seriously," Mr Bolli said.

"I think the government needs to reassure the patients or the public a lot more. I'm from India and my heart aches for everyone there. They don't have resources and we have resources and we're not using them."

Mr Bolli said the patients who had cancelled were a mix of people both under 50 and over 50, because many older people had said they would get a Pfizer jab.

There is currently no mechanism for members of the general public aged over 50 to get the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

My Medical Practice Charnwood, located in Canberra, can administer up to 400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine each week, Mr Bolli said, so there were plenty of appointments available in the coming weeks.

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Australian Medical Association ACT president Dr Antonio Di Dio said he knew of at least three GPs in the territory that had AstraZeneca vaccine appointments available in the next week or so. He said people who rang their GPs a fortnight ago were told they would not get an appointment until June.

Dr Di Dio said some of those appointments had become available because people had cancelled, but the bulk of the appointments at those three GPs had come online as more vaccine supply had become available.

"The majority of people are turning up their appointments, which is great," Dr Di Dio said.

"But they are getting people who are hesitant, who are changing their mind, and a small number of people who have cancelled their appointments and would like to wait for more information to come along."

Dr Di Dio said people might think they had the luxury of holding off getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia because the country was doing relatively well in terms of keeping coronavirus contained.

"I don't think we do have the luxury, because we know how quickly things can change," he said.

"Should there be some horrible thing happen in Australia in relation to COVID, people aren't going to be able to pick up the phone and say, 'Well, fit me in tomorrow', because 20 million other people are going to do exactly the same thing.

"I think that more and more people who look to the rest of the world [will] see that, in the countries where thousands of people are dying every day, people are using their common sense and racing to get vaccinated as quickly as [they] can.

"That common sense will hopefully spread across the world."

Official health advice says AstraZeneca vaccines should not be used in people under 50, but the side effect of blood clots is extremely rare. There have been between four and six cases of clots for every 1 million jabs, the vaccine advisory panel has said.

This story '30 per cent have cancelled': Vaccine hesitancy plays out at GPs first appeared on The Canberra Times.