Not enough supply of vaccine but huge demand

6 Sep 2021

People queuing for a vaccine


Transcript: AMA Queensland Council of General Practice Chair, Dr Maria Boulton, 4BC, Sunday 5 September 2021

Subjects: Vaccine rollout

SPENCER HOWSON:   She’s the Chair of the AMA Queensland Council of General Practice, she runs a GP clinic here in Windsor, Maria Boulton, welcome once again.

MARIA BOULTON:  Hi, good morning Spencer.

SPENCER HOWSON:   We’ve talked quite a bit about how at your clinic there, demand has been outstripping supply. Now the Chief Health Officer is saying that it’s flipped, that she’s concerned about some vaccine not being used, some opportunity, some capacity not being used, and she’s encouraging people to try again at their local GP. Does that match what you’re seeing?

MARIA BOULTON:  Thank you Spencer. What we’re seeing is that still there’s not enough supply and there’s still huge demand and we still have wait lists. So, yes, we are getting more vaccines from next week, so for example at our clinic we are going up from 300 to 500 of one brand of vaccine, which is great. But we’ve already got four clinics for the next few weeks and we’ve got a wait list of 2,000.

SPENCER HOWSON:   And I can hear the exasperation there in your voice, you just sighed there, just as you finished saying that, and that brand, that’s presumably AstraZeneca you’re talking about there?

MARIA BOULTON:   No, that’s Pfizer. We also have a good supply of AstraZeneca, but we’re finding that the demand for Pfizer, in our clinic we have a much younger population so the demand for Pfizer seems to be much greater at the moment, and actually, just as we speak, we’re running a COVID vaccine clinic just outside right now, so that’s pretty exciting.

SPENCER HOWSON:   So tell me what that means.

MARIA BOULTON:   It means we’re going to be doing 155 doses this morning, and people have booked in, and they’re just coming in, getting their consent, having a chat with us if they have any questions, getting their vaccine, and then waiting for 15 to 20 minutes after.

SPENCER HOWSON:   And will all of the people who’ve booked in turn up? Or is there the possibility that if you were to turn up and just stand there and wait that you might get in today? Not that I want to encourage that. Are you going to say to us, no chance?

MARIA BOULTON:   For us, because we have a wait list, we ring people down on the wait list so we don’t take walk-ins. I know that sometimes Queensland Health Hubs do and that’s something that they advertise on their site if they have the capacity. But for us, we have a wait list and we open the vials and people come.

SPENCER HOWSON:   Have you had to throw any away that’s been at the bottom of the bottle at the end of the day?

MARIA BOULTON:   No, absolutely not. We’ve been always able to ring someone to come in at the last minute, say if we have three doses left we’ll make three phone calls and people are always happy to come in.

SPENCER HOWSON:   And they will race in. Well, that’s good news. The state government is talking now about the next thing being more walk-ins, presumably at the mass vaccination hubs like Boondall for example, the Convention Centre. Can we start to be optimistic? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? We’ve seen in the last seven days these two swap deals with Singapore and the UK, how are you feeling about progress at this point?

MARIA BOULTON:  I still feel like we’re in the middle of it, just because we’re so busy giving people their vaccines and we’re not anywhere near target yet, so I still feel that we’re doing the really hard yards at the moment. And also there are still GP clinics that are still waiting for the supply of Pfizer. We’ve been told that by the end of September, every GP clinic that normally does immunisations for kids will have access to Pfizer. But I’ve got a friend who runs a very large clinic in South Brisbane and he’s still waiting for his Pfizer to arrive.

SPENCER HOWSON:   I don’t understand then, what the Chief Health Officer means when she says “check with your local GP again because there’s capacity that’s not being used”.

MARIA BOULTON:  Yeah, that’s not what we’ve heard and that’s not what we’re experiencing at my clinic. We’ve got a wait list. It’s not as long now because we’ve more vaccines and we’ll be able to do them quicker and as the vaccines come into my fridge, they get put into arms. So they’re not wasted, they’re not hanging around in the fridge waiting to be used, they’re going where they need to go.

SPENCER HOWSON:   So, finally, Dr Maria Boulton, what is your best advice, right now, September 5, for getting the vaccine sooner? Someone who’s listening to us right now and is just going, ok, I want to get this vaccine as soon as I can, what would you be suggesting they do?

MARIA BOULTON:  I would suggest that they check in to see if their local GP is doing it, and if so, book online. I would go onto the Queensland Health website and see if you can get a booking at a hub. Also the federal government’s has also got other clinics there. So what I’m telling patients is just see where you can get a booking, go on the wait list and see where you can get it in sooner. Once you have your vaccine, cancel whatever appointment comes up after that.

People don’t realise that it’s two different booking systems – you either book through Queensland Health, or you book through primary care, and there’s two different systems. So go on both.

SPENCER HOWSON:  So you’re suggesting booking into multiple systems and then cancelling when you get one?

MARIA BOULTON:   Absolutely.

SPENCER HOWSON:   So what’s that doing, if people are doing that, that’s actually extending, isn’t it, the estimates of how long it’s going to take and it’s inflating how long the queues are at the moment, and so if you’re put off by the length of the queues, don’t be, book in, because if people are going to be doing what Maria Boulton is suggesting, then you’re going to get moved up the queue sooner than you might think at the moment, because people will cancel their bookings.

MARIA BOULTON:   Yes definitely. And for example, with our waiting list, as soon as we get more vaccines, let’s say we get an extra 100 a week – I wish -  then the next 100 people will get a phone call and we’ll be able to fit them in much quicker. But there’s a few vaccines coming from Singapore, for example, so that will increase the vaccines available, so hopefully the people on the waiting list will get brought forward.

SPENCER HOWSON:   Always great to have you on the program.

5 September 2021


Published: 6 Sep 2021