The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says general practice teams are dealing with increasing abuse from people seeking COVID-19 vaccine exemptions.
It comes as anti-vaxxer groups have been encouraging people to seek exemptions on grounds that are not listed as a condition for exemption by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) Expanded Guidance.
RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Munoz said abusive behaviour was never okay.
“I am very concerned about the level abuse that general practice teams in Victoria are seeing from people seeking vaccine exemptions when they are not eligible,” Dr Munoz said.
“Victorians should be proud that we’ve achieved 90% double-dose vaccine milestone, this is a great achievement and it’s thanks to individuals coming forward to get their jab, and GPs and practice teams who are the backbone of the rollout.
“However, there are pockets within our state that are lagging behind in terms of vaccine coverage. And we are seeing very disturbing incidents of abusive and threatening behaviour from ineligible people seeking exemptions.
“It is a small minority, and most people are doing the right thing. However, we do need to deal with this issue urgently, we can’t simply ignore it.
“It’s unacceptable that GPs in some places are having to deal with daily abuse at work. Abusive and threatening behaviour is never okay.
“We must ensure the safety and wellbeing of our GPs, receptionists, practice nurses and everyone else on the frontline.”
The RACGP President Dr Karen Price urged patients to treat GPs and practice teams with respect.
“Unfortunately, many people have succumbed to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.
“Let me be clear, vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this deadly virus. As Australia opens up, we will see more COVID-19 cases in our state and across the country. It’s not worth risking your health and the health of your loved ones when you can get vaccinated now.
“Only a very small number of people can’t get a vaccine due to what we call “contraindications”. And for those people who have a contraindication to one vaccine, other vaccine options are available.
“I encourage people who are concerned about getting the jab to book an appointment to talk to their GP. GPs are expert in vaccine counselling, we’ll be able to answer any questions and bust any myths or misconceptions someone has heard.
“And, when you are calling your practice or going in for an appointment, please treat your GP and all practice team members with respect.
“General practice has been at the frontline of the pandemic working hard to protect the community, and continue providing care to our patients, and we’re the backbone of the vaccine rollout – delivering over half of all vaccines across Australia.
“It has been a very challenging and stressful time for those on the frontline. Kindness and a simple thank you goes a long way.”