Melbourne doctors say they are forced to turn away large numbers of locals seeking vaccines, including buses full of vulnerable residents of care facilities, because the Commonwealth supply of doses has not increased to match the explosion of the demand.
The latest outbreak has caused a large increase in demand for the Covid-19 vaccine in Victoria, and the state now records daily vaccination numbers in excess of 20,000 in primary care, up from roughly 2,300 doses administered on May 24.
The demand has flooded local GPs, who say their vaccine dose supplies are evaporating almost immediately.
Some clinics say they have made urgent requests to the federal government for higher dose assignments, only to be rejected.
The Inner North Medical Clinic in Brunswick currently has an allotment of 300 doses per fortnight.
Dr. Shea Wilcox said current demand means you are using your entire fortnight supply in one day.
The lack of supply has forced the clinic to turn away thousands of residents seeking the vaccine since the outbreak began.
“Our books are full of people trying to get the vaccine for which we have no doses. Vaccine supply continues to be a really critical problem for us, ”he said.
Wilcox told The Guardian that the supply shortage was so severe that he was forced to turn down two locally supported housing facilities.
One facility had organized buses to take its residents, who have mental health problems, to the clinic for vaccinations. Wilcox said the clinic had to turn them down due to a lack of supply.
“We had to say ‘sorry, we can’t do that,'” he said.
GP Nathan Pinskier reported similar problems at his two clinics in Melbourne.
“It has been amazing what happened in the last 10 days,” he told The Guardian. “We were struggling to fill appointments at all of our clinics, and we were building up a small stock of vaccines, and once this outbreak happened, it was completely reversed.”
He said the Commonwealth system was not nimble enough to respond to the kind of surge in demand seen in Melbourne.
Requests for allocation increases take more than fifteen days to process, he said, and the Covid-19 vaccination funding model, which bills through individual GPs rather than the clinic itself, means that doctors must be present for all vaccinations, rather than just using nurses.
That restricted the ability to deliver vaccines in large volumes, he said.
“As soon as we open appointments on any of our sites, they fill up in about 15 minutes,” Pinskier said.
“I made an appeal to the Commonwealth, and I will continue to put it to the Commonwealth, that we urgently need an increase in supply.”
The health department said it had released an additional 130,000 vaccines to support Victoria on May 26.
“To date, 787,780 Covid vaccines have been delivered to the Victoria State Government with 513,375 vaccines administered through the Victoria Government Vaccine Clinics. 958,540 vaccines have been delivered to primary care sites in Victoria with 624,875 vaccines delivered through primary care sites in Victoria, ”said a spokeswoman.
“This week an additional 71,370 Pfizer and 101,100 AstraZeneca vaccines will be delivered to the Victoria state government and approximately 92,000 AstraZeneca vaccines will be delivered to primary care centers in Victoria by the end of the week.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners also expressed frustration with the elderly care vaccination program, saying there was enough time to vaccinate the sector, if its members had been able to play a role.
Dr Khayyam Altaf, President of RACGP Specific Interests Aged Care, told the university news publication: NewsGPthat the federal government had placed too much trust in private contractors.
“There has been an over-reliance on a private vaccination provider that has caused restrictions with delays and their availability to perform vaccines,” he said.
“The GPs have been left out … and I would say that it is a mistake in decision making. And now it is clearly evident. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism