Vaccination delays by rural GPs raise questions about deployment – a support group

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The Rural GP Network is questioning how it should be able to proceed with the vaccination rollout as the majority of its doctors have not been immunised.

The organisation claims that the government’s tiered implementation strategy would not make sense in rural regions like the East Cape, and that local populations should be willing to be vaccinated in a single strike.

Grant Davidson, the network’s chief executive officer, said that he had not learned of any rural GPs receiving the vaccine.

“We are in the middle of group two in which all front line workers should be vaccinated – we don’t have figures on how many GPs have been given the vaccine because that information is held by DHBs,” Davidson said.

“But anecdotally there very few and I haven’t met any rural GPs that have been vaccinated.”

If rural health practitioners knew the plan and how the vaccine was going to be rolled out they would be more at ease, Davidson said.

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“Some doctors are being told to travel to main centres to get their vaccine but for some that is a 10-hour round trip.”

Small communities should be vaccinated in one go, he said.

“Why would you go back through the priority groups in rural areas – I think you need to take the vaccine to those areas and vaccinate the whole area in one go.”

The light at the end of the tunnel was that a rural health expert had been appointed to the Covid-19 vaccine implementation team, he said.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said doctors did not actually have to be vaccinated to be able to give the vaccine.

“The programmes are starting to roll out into rural areas and that has happened in some DHBs already and will continue, and of course the health workforce is the biggest priority in any area of New Zealand to get them vaccinated next.

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“I’m looking forward to our rural communities getting vaccinated with flexibility around how that is done.”

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