With around 24 million people requiring a dose, questions remain over when and how it will be delivered, who will get first access, and if it will even work at all.
According to Associate Professor Mark Morgan, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC), such an undertaking will require massive amounts of preparation to avoid issues witnessed in other mass-vaccination programs, such as seasonal influenza shots.
‘Each year the seasonal influenza vaccine is announced with a media fanfare – we drive up expectations and then disappoint people by delays in distribution,’ he told newsGP.
‘The demand for a COVID vaccination will be hugely greater than seasonal influenza. There will need to be a lot of planning for the distribution, storage, delivery and post-vaccination safety monitoring.’...
But whether it is delivered via nasal spray or injection, Associate Professor Morgan said GPs are ‘very likely’ to be heavily involved in the vaccine’s distribution.
‘GPs will have central roles in answering questions about COVID vaccination when, and if, a successful vaccine becomes available,’ he said.
‘Planning needs to be in place to fund this activity because Medicare currently excludes fee-for-service rebates for mass immunisation campaigns.’
Associate Professor Morgan said if vaccination becomes available at multiple sites, such as community pharmacies, government vaccination centres, hospitals, or workplaces, a robust system for recording who has and who has not been vaccinated will be crucial.
‘We know this is patchy for seasonal influenza immunisation,’ he said.
‘There will [also] need to be clear information available about how long it takes to become immune after the vaccination and how this changes the need for avoiding exposure to COVID-19.
‘Some of the public health messaging has been very black and white despite major scientific uncertainties – just think of how the messaging about mask use or school spread has changed over time.
‘It is going to be very important for public confidence to be clear, from the start, about the level of certainty and uncertainty surrounding any new vaccine.’