Vaccine hesitancy grows as GPs seek supply

The number of Australians who say they won't get vaccinated has risen to its highest level.
The number of Australians who say they won't get vaccinated has risen to its highest level.

Doctors have criticised Australia's "bizarre" distribution of coronavirus vaccines as a new survey revealed rising levels of vaccine hesitancy.

A parliamentary inquiry has heard supply issues are further hampering Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout, which is already proceeding slower than planned after the AstraZeneca jab was linked to rare but deadly blood clots.

Royal Association College of General Practitioners NSW/ACT chair Charlotte Hespe said her own practice had more than 8000 patients waiting for a vaccine but had been receiving just 50 doses a week.

Another nearby GP was getting 400 doses a week despite being a sole practitioner because his practice was designated as a respiratory clinic.

Associate Professor Hespe said most patients wanted to take the vaccine in a familiar setting with a trusted GP who had their medical history.

"There does seem to be a rather bizarre way that the vaccine numbers are being allocated around the country," she told the inquiry on Tuesday.

"While we've still got a lot of the older patients and people with medical conditions, I would just beg really that the numbers of vaccine to those standard practices (increase).

"We do this with the flu each year and it's smooth, it's efficient and it just happens. The big bugbear has been supply."

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said "sensationalist" media reporting of possible side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine had been unhelpful.

"It's absolutely critical that we're all working together to bolster public confidence in the vaccine," he said.

The number of Australians who say they will never get vaccinated against COVID-19 has risen to its highest level since the pandemic began.

An Essential poll has been tracking attitudes towards the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines since August last year.

The latest survey of 1090 people found 16 per cent would never get vaccinated, up four percentage points from last month.

Females aged between 18 and 34 were most likely to say they would not get the jab.

Support is still strongest to get the vaccination, with an equal split between groups who would get one right away and those who would wait.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being made locally and was originally the mainstay of Australia's national rollout.

But it's no longer the recommended option for people under the age of 50, due to the clotting risk, with the Pfizer jab the preferred vaccine for this cohort.

However, the polling shows one per cent of people in the 50 to 69 age bracket would be willing to get the AstraZeneca but not the Pfizer jab.

Less than half (40 per cent) would be willing to get either.

Almost two million vaccine doses have been administered but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to set a target for the remainder.

Australian Associated Press