Should we postpone the start of the school year to allow deployment to children? It depends on the decision makers.
As a general practitioner, I understand the concerns and frustrations of parents. Many people ask me if their child will be well enough protected after the first dose. I tell them the first dose will provide some protection, but it’s only after you get the two doses that you get the highest levels of protection.
It’s a huge logistical exercise to get a jab in the arms of the kids, let alone two. The school year will have started by the time many have received their second vaccine.
“If we had more funding, we could hire more staff and run bigger immunization clinics. “
A reliable supply of adequate and responsive enough vaccines to meet demand is essential for the effective deployment of mass immunization. General practitioners need to be able to plan vaccination clinics with confidence. Inconsistent supply results in a lot of wasted time and in the midst of a global pandemic with cases skyrocketing across Australia, time is too precious to be wasted.
In addition to this, we must remember that childhood vaccinations are a more complex task. Children need more time and care, as well as space, because their parents are with them. All of this should be factored into planning practices for immunization clinics. Children are often afraid of needles, and parents often have a lot of questions. So we need to spend time allaying their concerns and making sure everyone is totally comfortable.
To parents who are struggling to make an appointment for their children, I say don’t give up. And please be patient. Remember your local family practice, receptionists, chiefs of staff, nurses, administrative staff and general practitioners are doing their best, but we have a huge workload right now. It’s safe to say that most GP teams are exhausted. We do our best not to burn out.
We are dealing with a record number of cases in Australia, with more and more people living with COVID-19 in need of care, in addition to usual care, including those who delayed or avoided care earlier in the pandemic , and the largest vaccination program ever carried out in our country. We are also juggling adult vaccines and children’s vaccines.
I know the past couple of years have been very difficult for many practices, some run on paper thin margins and struggle to make ends meet at the end of their immunization clinics. This is why the Royal Australian College of GPs and other medical groups have fought for adequate funding for the deployment of the vaccine.
It’s simple math. If we had more stock in our fridges, we could offer more dates and get more punches. If we had more funding, we could hire more staff and run larger immunization clinics, and more practices could open later and on weekends.
We should be fighting this with everything we have, not an arm tied behind our back.