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More than 4400 general practices will be able to administer the Pfizer vaccine while another 850 rural and regional clinics and 1000 pharmacies will deliver Moderna injections from October as the vaccine rollout sprints to the end of the year.
Doctors will also be paid to make home visits to vaccinate the frail and elderly who cannot visit clinics to get immunised and ensure people moving into aged care facilities do not miss out.
From October more than 4400 GPs will be able to deliver Pfizer while another 850 GPs and 1000 pharmacies will deliver Moderna injections.Credit:Fairfax Media
The Commonwealth has also started writing to all Australians over the age of 70, thanking those who have already been vaccinated and urging the rest to book in for their shots.
So far, more than 5 million people have now had at least one dose of a vaccine, including 61 per cent of Australians aged over 70.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccination rate was good but could be better.
“We want to continue to encourage more people of every age group, but particularly the over 70s to come forward,” he said on Monday. “The older you are, the higher the risk, it’s as simple as that with COVID.”
All Australians over the age of 40 are now eligible for vaccination, and already a number of Commonwealth-run vaccination clinics have started administering Pfizer.
From July, 300 general practices will begin to deliver Pfizer alongside AstraZeneca. That will increase to 650 clinics by the end of the month and then ramp up as supplies increase through August and September, Mr Hunt said.
“As we go into the last quarter we’ll have over 27 million Pfizer doses, and that will be all hands on deck,” he said.
A small number of general practices have withdrawn from the COVID-19 vaccination program, a Department of Health spokeswoman said, due to reasons such as workforce shortages or a lack of infrastructure such as the fridges required to keep the vaccines cold.
But from the middle of June, more than 850 GPs will join the rollout to increase vaccine coverage in rural and regional areas.
Subject to supply and approval, about 1000 pharmacies will start putting Moderna vaccines into arms from October.
“The current 4400 [GPs] they will have access to Pfizer, the additional 800 GPS and the pharmacies will have access to Moderna on the initial plan,” Mr Hunt said.
A spokeswoman for the minister said that would be in addition to state-approved pharmacies in regional areas, which will be able to also deliver AstraZeneca in line with the regional pharmacies in Queensland already doing so.
Doctors will now be able to claim $56.75 for a visit to an aged care facility, disability residence or a patient’s home, as well as claim the vaccine fee to help make sure people are able to access vaccines in the future, Mr Hunt said.
“It’s about expanding the vaccination program,” he said. “And it’s recognising that each year we have up to 60,000 people who come into aged care, and to ensure that there is a continuous vaccination program in our aged care facilities.”
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Karen Price, welcomed the boost to clinic numbers and the new home visit billing, saying there were millions of Australians who still needed to be vaccinated.
“We are going to have to open up at some point and COVID isn’t going away,” she said.
“All of us are going to come into contact with it, so the more people we can get done the better.“
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said it was surprised by the announcement.
“This is news to the guild and is in contrast to the advice we are receiving from a growing number of states and territories who want all of the pharmacies in their jurisdiction activated immediately,” a guild spokesman said. ”Australians expect to be able to access their vaccinations at a site of their choosing.”
More than 3900 pharmacies across the country have been deemed suitable for administering vaccines, with the guild pushing last week to allow pharmacies to join the rollout as soon as possible.
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