Australia is lagging behind in the coronavirus vaccination race, a health expert has warned, as the Federal Government announced new measures to boost coverage.
From Monday, more than 1000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program and online bookings are now open for eligible Australians.
Strategic health consultant Professor Bill Bowtell, a former adviser to Paul Keating, said the move is welcome but there is much work to be done.
“We are way behind where we ought to be and it’s good that the booking system is coming online,” Professor Bowtell told Today.
“But there’s a lot of work that has to be done to resolve problems with doctors, doctors’ surgeries who are getting very low allocations of vaccines, the financial arrangements with doctors haven’t been sorted out.”
Professor Bowtell accused the Federal Government of “proceeding far too slowly” and said “we are way behind where we ought to be”.
“As of today, the Australian rollout ranks 94th in the world. Rwanda, Senegal, Bangladesh have all vaccinated more people per population than we have,” Professor Bowtell said.
“Two months ago, President Biden was inaugurated in the United States and since then 106 million Americans have received at least one jab and they are vaccinating at the rate of 2.1 million a day.”
The new GP vaccination services will come online from March 22 and progressively increase in number to more than 4000 by the end of April, as part of phase 1B of Australia’s vaccine program.
This staged scale-up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine.
The rollout for phase 1B complements the program underway to protect Australia’s most vulnerable citizens in phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Phase 1B totals six million Australians and includes vulnerable groups, such as older people and people with certain underlying medical conditions.
As the rollout moves into phase two, additional general practices and selected community pharmacists will also participate in the program.
Professor Bowtell said it was vital Australia picked up the pace of vaccinations because of new COVID-19 variants.
“I saw somebody the other day say that this wasn’t a race,” he said.
“It is a race.
“It’s a race against the emergence of new variants … and we have got to get ahead of that, and we’re not doing that at the moment.”
How the GP vaccination booking system will work
Go to Department of Health website.
Using the Eligibility Checker, you can find out which phase of the rollout you are in.
If you are eligible, you will be able to view vaccination clinics and book an appointment online or via phone.
If you are not yet eligible, you will be able to register your interest so that you can be notified when you are able to book.
If you prefer not to use the online option, you can call the National Coronavirus and COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline on 1800 020 080.
What happens if there are no clinics or appointments in my area?
A list of Commonwealth vaccination clinics, participating general practices, and state and territory vaccination clinics will be made available as they come online.
Do I have to use the Eligibility Checker in order to book?
The checker is a helpful tool to help you find out if you are currently eligible to book.
The checker will guide you through to a simple way to find and book vaccine appointments, or help you register to be notified if you are part of a later phase.
If you prefer to book appointments directly at a participating general practice or Commonwealth state vaccination clinic, you can contact them directly to do so.
Source: 9NEWS. 9news.com.au