GPs fume at being left to shoulder AstraZeneca vaccine confusion after PM’s ‘unhelpful’ comments

General practitioners say they are being “left to hold the mess” created by the confused and conflicting statements about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is making it harder for them to obtain informed consent from patients.

The confused messaging around AstraZeneca continued on Wednesday after Christopher Blyth, the co-chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi), said the vaccine should be considered for under-40s only in rare circumstances and Dr Jeannette Young, the Queensland chief health officer, continued to insist that under-40s in her state should not get AstraZeneca.

Both statements, and those of other state and territory leaders this week, sit uncomfortably with the suggestion of the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Monday that those under 40 could now begin approaching their GPs to get AstraZeneca.

On the ground, some GPs are fuming that they have been left to deal with the fallout.

Dr Todd Cameron, a Melbourne-based GP who founded M3 健康, said it would be “an understatement to say there is a drop of confidence” in AstraZeneca following Morrison’s “unhelpful” comments.

His Spotswood clinic was delivering about 300 AstraZeneca doses over five to six hours each day during Victoria’s recent lockdown. That has now fallen away to between 40 到 80.

Those still coming for AstraZeneca now needed far longer, more complex conversations to ensure informed consent, 他说.

“The federal government is sticking the knife in the power point and we in general practice get the shock,“ 他说. “That’s pretty well how it goes.”

Dr Anna Davidson, who runs a GP super clinic in Port Stephens, 新南威尔士, said her doctors were spending large amounts of their time tracking the differing statements of state and federal leaders and chief medical officers, to ensure they were ready when patients inevitably brought them up.

Each day, her clinic has to essentially retrain its front desk staff on what it needs to tell patients when they call about the vaccine.

She said it was a “full-time job keeping up with the state of flux”.

“We’re left holding the mess, general practice,“ 她说. “We’re constantly blindsided, constantly scrambling to catch up with the latest change, announcement, [chief health officer] 斗争, or scrambling for vaccines,“ 她说.

“I can tell you general practices are over it.”

Davidson said the onus had been placed squarely on the shoulders of GPs to have difficult conversations about AstraZeneca without corresponding, coordinated public health messaging from government.

“If we can’t educate our patients so that they’re coming in with the information that we would give them, and then quickly apply that to their own situation and their own fears … then we’re having to do the education as well as the consent process in an individual appointment.”

Lieutenant general John Frewen, who heads up Australia’s vaccine rollout, said on Thursday that 2,600 people aged under 40 had received their first AstraZeneca dose in the two days since Morrison’s comments on Monday night.

“Now that’s 2,600 Australians who feel, 马上, they would rather have the available vaccine than wait,” he told the Today Show. “So I think all Australians have that right.”

The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Dr Karen Price, said Monday’s announcement had taken “many of us by surprise”.

“It is no wonder that many GPs will be doing their best to get their heads around this new information and determine exactly how they will discuss these changes with their patients,“ 她说.

“General practice is the backbone of the rollout, but no GP is the same and no patient is the same. At the end of the day the RACGP believe in patient choice.”

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