GPs versus anti-vaxxers: the heart of the national vaccination strategy

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The CDC should be coordinating the national vaccination approach against misinformation, hesitancy and fatigue, says the AMA.

GPs are the beating heart of the fight against vaccine fatigue and misinformation, says the AMA. 

In its recent submission to the federal government’s public consultation on the 2025-2030 National Immunisation Strategy, the association flagged its concern over the resurgence of vaccine-mitigated diseases, such as the measles and respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV and whooping cough.  

“Australia’s world-leading National Immunisation Program has led to an exceptionally high rate of childhood immunisation, but there are many challenges to overcome on the path to the national coverage target of 95%,” said AMA president Professor Steve Robson. 

“We are unfortunately still seeing misinformation about vaccines spreading like wildfire on social media, while a mixture of vaccine hesitancy and fatigue set in following the covid pandemic.” 

According to the submission, a strong immunisation strategy will be key to mitigating the falling rates across Australia following a growth in “anti-vaccine and anti-science views”. 

While the AMA was broadly supportive of the proposed strategy, it emphasised the need for GPs to remain at the heart of vaccination, with vaccines best provided by a medical practitioner or by a nurse working as part of a collaborative team. 

Childhood vaccination, in particular, must remain in general practice, said the AMA. 

“GPs are best equipped to provide medically supervised and best-practice vaccination services,” said Professor Robson. 

“It is the safest environment for childhood vaccinations, which are considered an important milestone in establishing a relationship with a usual GP, which leads to better long-term health outcomes.” 

Keeping childhood vaccination in general practice may also help identify patients who would benefit from MyMedicare enrollment, added the association. 

While the AMA was pro-accessibility, but wary of workforce shortages, it warned of the risk of expanding provision without the guidance of a medical practitioner. 

“The AMA supports a policy that places general practitioners at the centre of vaccination administration, and this policy should be adopted in all jurisdictions to ensure the best health outcomes for Australians,” reads the submission. 

“The AMA believes best practice is for vaccination to be provided by a medical practitioner or by a nurse working as part of a collaborative team. 

“Any expansion to the immunisation workforce must be guided by strong regulation to ensure increased access to vaccination is supported by high standards of service and resources across healthcare settings.” 

It pointed to its 2021 position statement as minimum standards for vaccine delivery outside of general practice. 

The association also agreed on the need for a dedicated plan to increase immunisation, with a particular focus on First Nations peoples. 

“To work towards more equitable outcomes for First Nations people, it must be recognised that the health system and the healthcare it provides has been profoundly shaped by a medical educational system that has its epistemological roots deep within the western dominated biomedical model,” reads the submission. 

“The AMA is supportive of efforts being made to address historical injustices and exclusions for access to healthcare as a means to address current inequities.” 

The association also backed the proposal of a “no-fault” compensation scheme for vaccine injuries, which the association spearheaded during covid, and funding longer GP consultations for discussions. 

“If introduced more broadly, a no-fault scheme would ensure the small number of patients injured by a vaccine product or vaccinator negligence received reasonable compensation through a simple claims process, without burden of litigation,” said the AMA. 

“Vaccinators would feel more confident as this would minimise the risk of litigation and we would expect this would place downward pressure on indemnity insurance rates. 

“Beyond the introduction of the no-fault scheme, a key contributor to helping Australia achieve world-leading covid vaccination rates at the end of 2021 was the introduction of the consultation item for GPs to spend more time with patients to discuss the vaccine and any concerns.  

“AMA members reported spending upwards of 45 minutes with some patients as they talked them through the benefits and very low risks.” 

The AMA named the Centre for Disease Control as the “suitable home” to support national immunisation programs and flagged its poor funding. 

“While we congratulate the Government for establishing the interim Australian CDC, this arrangement is far from adequate given its announcement over two years ago,” said the AMA. 

“The AMA emphasises that the CDC must be adequately funded and resourced over the long-term to undertake its multitude of functions, including rapid risk assessment, scientific briefings, public education, and disease prevention.  

“The AMA was disappointed the Australian CDC received no funding in the 24/25 Federal Budget and that legislation for the Australian CDC would not be introduced in 2024.” 

The AMA championed the creation of a CDC which, if properly funded, could lead “preventative and responsive” vaccination programs. 

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