General practitioners and pharmacists in Australia will receive an extra $10 for each COVID-19 booster jab administered from Dec. 23 under an additional $120 million in vaccine incentive funded by the federal government.
The additional funding is aimed at providing greater flexibility for medical practices and pharmacies to run vaccine clinics and to ensure there are sufficient staff available to deliver the booster doses.
The incentive is set to run from Dec. 23 and will remain in place until June 30 next year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was important the country kept up with the demand for booster shots, with millions of people becoming eligible after a quarter of state and territory run vaccination hubs closed.
“This is an added incentive to keep the primary care system delivering vaccines at as great a capacity as we possibly can,” he said.
GPs currently receive between $65 to $75 for each double-dosed client.
Australian Medical Association President Omar Khorshid welcomed the additional funding. He said it would support GPs and pharmacists to scale-up the number of booster doses being administered around the country.
“GPs and their practice staff around the country are under immense pressure and this extra funding is welcome recognition of the work they are doing and acknowledges the extra resourcing needed to support them,” Khorshid said.
“This will enable GPs to reach out to patients, to run larger clinics and hold more vaccination sessions to meet demand. GPs have played an integral role in the COVID-19 vaccination program and will continue to work as hard as possible to get boosters into their patients’ arms.”
Khorshid also enquired into whether certain groups should be prioritised in the vaccine rollout.
“ATAGI’s advice needs to continue to guide the vaccine roll-out, including whether there is a need to prioritise targeted groups for boosters.
However Royal Australian College of General Practitioners President Karen Price approached the announcement cautiously, warning that the coming months will be challenging for many practices.
“I will always welcome more support for general practice, but we need to remember that many practices are operating on wafer thin margins, and some are actually losing money on the vaccine rollout,” she said.
“Whether the additional funding will be enough for practices to at least break even as we enter this more complicated phase of the rollout remains to be seen. However, we will continue to advocate for a level of support that protects patients and allows GPs to get on with what we do best—providing world class primary care.”
RACGP has also warned that delivering booster vaccines, vaccinating children and delivering usual day-to-day care, including treating patients with mental health issues and those who have delayed or avoided care during the pandemic, will continue to put many practices under great pressure.
Currently, more than half of Australians eligible for boosters have received their third COVID-19 vaccine.
Around 200,000 doses are administered each day, with roughly 150,000 of them being boosters.
However, the prime minister hopes to see this increase to the higher vaccination peaks of 350,000 to 360,000 a day and hopes for more than two million doses a week in January and February next year as more people become eligible.
Head of the vaccine rollout Lieutenant General John Frewen said that supply is not a challenge, with enough vaccines to cover for vaccinations and boosters for Australians until the end of April 2022.
COVID-19 vaccines for five to 11 year old’s are also set to commence on Jan. 10 with bookings filling out fast.