Saturday, July 20, 2024

GPs Key to Combating Vaccine Fatigue, Preventable Disease

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The trusted relationship GPs have with their patients makes them best placed to fight vaccine fatigue and misinformation amid concerns about a resurgence in preventable disease, says the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP).

In a submission to consultation on the Federal Government’s 2025-2030 National Immunisation Strategy, Australia’s peak GP body warned of falling vaccine rates and increasing rates of preventable diseases.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said: “Australia has been grappling with falling vaccination rates and we’re seeing a resurgence in preventable diseases as a result, such as measles, which was virtually eradicated in 2014.

“GPs are best placed to boost vaccination rates because they have expertise in counselling patients and addressing vaccine fatigue and misinformation, which is a hangover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“80% of Australians have a regular GP and 90% have a regular practice. GPs make sure their patients are up to date with their vaccinations, and if a patient is hesitant, they’re more likely to listen to the GP they know and trust who can explain the evidence and address misinformation.

“And GPs provide the vast majority of childhood vaccines in Australia – 73.2% of vaccinations given to children aged 10 and under were administered in general practices in 2022, according to the Annual immunisation Coverage Report.

“When parents go to a GP for their child’s vaccinations it’s also an opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with that GP, and there are numerous studies showing how seeing the same GP and practice results in better health. It’s also an important opportunity to monitor the growth and development of kids and check in on families.

“Changing rules allowing more health professionals to vaccinate has resulted in fragmented care and missed opportunities for children and family health checks in general practice. Politicians need to understand immunisations aren’t just about giving a vaccine, it’s an opportunity for health checks that help people live healthier, which also benefits our health system.

“The government has a role to play too in funding public awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of vaccination to protect our community, particularly children and people who are more vulnerable.

“Most vaccinations in general practice are bulk billed, and we need to ensure it stays this way. That’s why we’re also calling for the government to increase patients’ Medicare rebates. This is the subsidy the government pays to cover the cost of care for Australians. But after decades of underfunding of general practice and Medicare, today’s patient rebates don’t come close to reflecting the true cost of delivering care across Australia, and bulk billing has been declining. General practice care is essential, and it needs to be affordable for everyone.”

~ENDS

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