Geraldton GPs, pharmacists observe lower than usual uptake in annual flu vaccinations

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook tour the clinic at the Claremont Showgrounds today where people are receiving the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Michael Wilson
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook tour the clinic at the Claremont Showgrounds today where people are receiving the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Michael Wilson Credit: The West Australian

Local GPs and pharmacists have noticed some residents are slow to schedule their flu vaccinations as Geraldton approaches the end of its first week of winter, with some eligible patients also reluctant about getting the COVID-19 jab.

Victoria District Medical Centre has started its flu vaccination program, but nurse Jo Young said patients had not been in a hurry to book their appointments.

“I think with the flu vaccine, probably not as many people are taking it up,” she said.

“This might be because people are washing their hands and not getting the flu, so they think they don’t need to have it.”

Ms Young said patients were also complacent and hesitant about getting their AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The uptake is not as good as what it could be because people are complacent in this State because they are not seeing COVID, plus they are hearing things in the media that are not necessarily accurate,” she said.

Pharmacy 194 owner Paul Buise said most people typically got flu jabs in May and June, but numbers had so far not reached the levels of previous years. “We are certainly not seeing the mad rush that we had this time last year,” he said.

“The vast majority of people we have seen are those that are required to have it for employment reasons or if they have to access a nursing home to see a loved one.”

Mr Buise thought the uncertainty created by the pandemic had made people keen to get vaccinations last year. “We had a huge rush last year to get the flu vaccines but it was mainly out of fear ... over what was happening around the world,” he said.

“Having said that, because people were isolating and washing their hands and hygiene was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we really didn’t have a huge flu season last year.”

We just need to try and reassure them that millions and millions of people have had this vaccine and the rare complications are just that, very rare.

Midwest GP Network and Geraldton Hospital Medical Advisory Committee chairman Dr Ian Taylor said his practice was co-ordinating appointments to ensure patients received their AstraZeneca and flu vaccines at the correct times.

Dr Taylor said the vaccine rollout had been “going quite well”, but some patients were still hesitant about getting their COVID jab.

“Some people who are eligible for AstraZeneca are saying ‘I want Pfizer’, but there are very strict guidelines because we need to reserve Pfizer for the under 50-year-olds,” he said. “(The hesitant patients) are not people who would normally refuse a vaccine, they are people who are a little bit unsure of this one.

“We just need to try and reassure them that millions and millions of people have had this vaccine and the rare complications are just that, very rare.”

“My concern is if and when the borders finally open, if there aren’t enough people vaccinated then we will see the consequences of it.

“We are not out of the woods, we are in our little bubble but we can’t stay in our little bubble forever.”

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