Regional WA residents aged over 50 unable to access COVID-19 vaccines

Busselton resident Paul Hogan has not been able to get a COVID-19 vaccine despite having a pre-existing medical condition because authorised GP's in the area haven't received enough doses to vaccinate the eligible population.
Busselton resident Paul Hogan has not been able to get a COVID-19 vaccine despite having a pre-existing medical condition because authorised GP's in the area haven't received enough doses to vaccinate the eligible population.

A Busselton resident aged over 65 years with a pre-existing medical condition has not been able to get a COVID-19 vaccine because there aren't enough doses available to vaccinate the eligible population

Paul Hogan went to book an appointment with a GP in Busselton but was told he could not go there because he was not a regular patient.

Doctor surgeries in the area which are authorised to administer the vaccine are only receiving 50 COVID-19 doses a week, with some only having enough stock to vaccinate existing patients aged over 70.

With the federal government announcing that Australians aged over 50 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and in NSW those aged over 40 will soon be eligible, it seems those living in regional WA are missing out.

"How bad is that?" Mr Hogan said.

"How many other people have been affected?

"I called the COVID-19 hotline and they said it is not supposed to happen but it is because they are not getting enough vaccines.

"Fifty a week is nothing, they won't get the whole country vaccinated for years at this rate."

A WA Health spokesperson said the Commonwealth Government determined the number of vaccines that are provided to GP's and WA Health.

The spokesperson said the number of vaccines distributed throughout the South West was unknown because they were being distributed to private practices, as well as, clinics run by the WA Country Health Service.

"WACHS is not the only health service provider as GPs and Aboriginal Medical Services will have administered vaccines so we are unable to advise how people have received vaccines in South West towns," the spokesperson said.

"The WACHS vaccination clinic is open daily in Bunbury and a visiting clinic at Collie and other towns in the South West, WACHS is targeting priority populations within the Commonwealth's phased approach as well as aged care residents in WACHS run site in Collie.

"Adults over 50 are also eligible to receive AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine at any of our AZ clinics by booking an appointment by calling 13COVID (13 26843) or visit rollupforwa.com.au for more information.

"WACHS have set up mobile clinics in a number of towns across the South West including Busselton, Margaret River, Harvey, Nannup, Donnybrook and Collie with plans to extend clinics to other areas of the region."

Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller said regional areas were much more vulnerable from a health service point of view, so the vaccine should be distributed more quickly in those areas.

"For example, if the hospital system does get impacted by COVID-19 then it is much more vulnerable in the regions," he said.

"I would rather they focus on getting it out in a more speedy fashion to regional areas, but it is difficult to see what is going on until we see more transparency on the numbers."

Dr Miller said the government needed to be more transparent about how many vaccines there were, where they were and how many people have had their first and second dose.

"They are not telling us that at the moment," he said.

"That would install a lot more confidence in the scheme rather than people scrambling around trying to get an appointment.

"We can only hope that the reason they messed it up is because they did not go through the normal flu vaccine channel and decided to go through new logistical bureaucracy to deal with it and decided that doctors should do a two hour online course on how to vaccinate somebody.

"That made it all the more complicated than it needed to be."

More than 4,000 pharmacists throughout Australia have been accepted to administer COVID-19 vaccines, which was supposed to start this month.

However, a Pharmacy Guild of WA spokesperson said they have been advised that because availability of the vaccine is low the rollout to pharmacists has been delayed.

"A rural remote program in areas with no GPs is mooted in the next few weeks however detail is scarce and we have received no further details on where or how many," the spokesperson said.

"The Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch is still waiting for confirmation from Government as to when Phase 2a will start, and when community pharmacies will be brought onto the COVID-19 vaccine roll.

"We are at a loss to understand why pharmacies in WA are being held back. The Premier, our Health Minister and the Health Department all want us involved and our members stand by ready to help. Its up to the federal government to explain what the holdup is.

"Currently, there is a significant need to increase vaccine rates, WA is the largest health jurisdiction in the world with a dispersed population, the current roll-out model of a small number of GPs and a few 'mass vaccination sites' located in Perth is not meeting the needs of the state's wider population.

"More sites, with easier access over longer hours are needed.

"As such, the existing network of community pharmacies across Western Australia are ideally placed to achieve this, and yet are currently restricted for meeting the community's needs."

A Health Department spokesperson said there would be further deliberation on the role of community pharmacies through National Cabinet.

"Community pharmacies can be included in state and territory rollout plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited GP clinics, Aboriginal Health Services or state/territory clinics already offering vaccines," the spokesperson said.

"There are currently 10 primary care vaccination sites in Busselton and a total of 89 primary care vaccination sites enrolled in the program administering vaccinations across Country WA.

"Over the last 11 weeks more than 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to primary care vaccination sites in WA and 187,480 COVID-19 vaccines to the WA state government.

"This week, we are further increasing the allocations of vaccines to states and territories and our general practices.

"This means that we will triple the allocations of 3,000 low-volume clinics from 50 to 150 doses per week and double the allocations of 1,000 medium-volume practices from 100 to 200 doses per week."

This story Short supply of COVID-19 vaccine in regional WA first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.