A Launceston general practitioner has gone against a federal government agreement, choosing to vaccinate himself and his staff with a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of Monday's planned rollout.
Dr Andrew Jackson, of Mowbray's Northern Suburbs Medical Service, says he chose to ignore Health Department advice to wait until March 22 to begin administering the vaccine to priority patients, as part of the national Phase 1b rollout.
Instead, after receiving his practice's supply of the AstraZeneca on Wednesday evening, he used about 10 doses to vaccinate himself, staff and one patient.
Dr Jackson said he was acting on behalf of the "forgotten frontline" who he says should have been included in Phase 1a of the vaccination program from the beginning.
"The forgotten frontline in all of this has been general practice. The GPs, their medical receptionists and their practice nurses," he said.
"On Monday, if that is when it's all going to start, suddenly they are all going to be exposed to hoards of people, clamouring for their vaccine.
"We are going to have all these people coming through the door and I'm sorry, but plastic shields and masks just won't cut it."
People eligible for vaccines as part of Phase 1b:
- People aged 70 or older who did not receive the vaccine during phase 1a
- Healthcare workers who did not receive a vaccine during phase 1a
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults
- Adults with underlying medical conditions
- Adults with disabilities who have underlying medical conditions
- Critical and high-risk workers such as defence workers, police, firefighters, emergency services and meat processing workers
A Health Department spokesperson said it had advised general practices that Phase 1b commences on March 22.
However they said healthcare workers, including staff in general practice, do form part of the priority population eligible to be vaccinated as part of the rollout.
"There are no issues with GPs vaccinating their staff from March 22 using a staggered approach, and as long as they have enough vaccines to cover the number of patients scheduled."
Tasmania's GP-led stage of the vaccine rollout is due to commence on March 22, with eight practices in the Bass area expected to start administering vaccines during week one.
About 180,000 Tasmanians are expected be vaccinated as part of Phase 1b, however health officials have warned this could take at least four months to complete.
GPs Administering Vaccines in Bass
- ESK Family Health Care Centre - Launceston
- Newstead Medical - Newstead
- Ochre Medical Centre - Scottsdale
- Summerdale Medical Practice - Launceston
- Northern Suburbs Medical Services - Mowbray
- Exeter Medical Centre - Exeter
- Legana Medical Centre - Legana
- Family Doctor Service - Kings Meadows
Dr Jackson said his practice was one of the first in Tasmania to receive its supply of the vaccine this week, but that he saw no point in waiting until Monday to start administering them.
"I decided we weren't going to make any arrangements for people to come in and have the vaccine, until we had it [vaccine] in the fridge," he said.
"Once we had it, I wanted to start vaccinating straight away and I wanted to start with medical practice doctors, staff and receptionists and nurses.
"It's no good sitting in the fridge, when it should be in people's arms".
It comes after the botched launch of the federal government's national vaccine booking website on Wednesday, which resulted in GP practices across the country being inundated by calls from patients.
Dr Jackson said the whole approach to the vaccine represented a "top down" approach from the government, and GPs were cleaning up the mess.
Receiving a box of 10 multi-dose vials of AstraZeneca, Dr Jackson said he was also surprised to learn that up to 10 vaccine doses could be achieved through each vial, instead of the expected eight.
"With careful use, we have the potential to get 25 per cent more doses out of each vial, then we first thought. That is quite significant," he said.
The first patient to receive an AstraZeneca vaccination from Dr Jackson was long-time patient Annie Greig, who recently underwent a lung transplant.
After continuing to vaccinate staff and patients on Friday, Dr Jackson said his practice would be designating remaining vaccines to priority patients, starting next week.
Tasmanians are encouraged to check their eligibility for a vaccine online or call 1800 020 080.
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