Australia is getting there.
At the time of writing, we have about 56% of our eligible population across the entire country fully vaxxed against COVID-19.
Even the federal health minister, Greg Hunt has acknowledged, general practice and general practitioners have made the greatest contribution in achieving this ever-increasing level of coverage. And it’s not just about the actual jabs.
All practising GPs will have been fielding questions about the vaccines, probably more than even questions about the disease itself.
For the past two years there has been a constant barrage of COVID-related information from a wide-range of sources, not all reputable – and one might expect it has been a challenge for GPs to stay across all the developments and information, and stay one step ahead of the patients who have also been inundated with even less filtered information. Has there ever been a vaccine that has been associated with this degree of angst, scrutiny, publicity and often downright fear?
Nonetheless, a recent Healthed survey of over 820 GPs reveals that more than a quarter report they feel confident in all vaccine discussions.
And if you think that sounds a little low, the survey shows it isn’t the science that causes concern. The problems appear to arise when patients want to discuss potential problems that are not recognised by the scientific literature.
For example over 90% of the GP report they are somewhat or extremely confident discussing the safety of the vaccine (90.7%), or the effectiveness of the vaccine (93.9%) or vaccine side-effects (93.4%). But when a patient has religious concerns about the vaccine only 53% felt somewhat or extremely confident, and with regard fertility issues the figure was just over 80%.
When asked which discussions about the vaccine did GPs find challenging, by far and away the most commonly cited challenging scenario was that with the over 60 year old patient who doesn’t want any of the COVID vaccines. Of the GPs surveyed, 43.8% reported that the discussion related to this blanket refusal was still tough.
Other scenarios were considered challenging by far fewer GPs. For example only about a quarter of the GPs surveyed said they considered it a challenge discussing the vaccine with a hesitant parent of a child aged over 12 (26.6%), or with a pregnant woman (24.4%) or with an older person who wanted one vaccine over another (25.9%).
But despite all the challenges, it certainly appears GPs have overcome the majority of them – at least as far as the rapidly increasing vaccination coverage rates tend to suggest.