AMA President’s message to GPs

15 Apr 2021

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, has written to GP members about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and associated issues, including the decision that the Pfizer vaccine is now preferred for patients under 50 years, and medical indemnity.  

Dr Khorshid praised the Commonwealth’s decision to position general practice at the centre of its roll out plans. The AMA, along with other GP bodies, will continue to work with the Government to address problems as they arise, maintain public confidence, and ensure that GPs get the support and recognition they deserve. 

However, he highlighted that COVID-19 vaccine rollout in general practice has been more difficult than it should have been due to several missteps by the Commonwealth, including the poorly communicated launch of the national booking service and issues with vaccine distribution.  

The decision, based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), to preference Pfizer over Astra Zeneca for people under 50 years also left GPs in a very difficult position. While the AMA supported the decision as it was based on independent medical advice, it significantly changed the landscape overnight. Advising patients on the Astra Zeneca vaccine immediately become far more complicated and, for now, the supply of Pfizer remains extremely limited. 

Dr Khorshid has raised with Minister Hunt that the current COVID-19 MBS vaccine assessment items were never designed to deal with the situation GPs now find themselves in, and that there is a need for more latitude to allow co-claiming with standard consultation items or for the creation of specific longer assessment items. 

The AMA has also raised GPs concerns over medical indemnity with the Commonwealth and Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs). MDOs have assured the AMA that doctors are covered by their policies and MDOs are providing this same advice to their members in the strongest terms.  

The Commonwealth has also given written assurance that it will take further steps to protect and support health professionals if the vaccination rollout gives rise to an unusual number of claims from patients into the future. Dr Khorshid told the Minister for Health over the weekend that more clarity is needed about the mechanisms the Commonwealth intends to use to act on this, and the AMA continues to call for measures to ensure that, as far as possible, GPs are not drawn into future vaccine related litigation.