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 WA Chair Ramya Raman said abusive behaviour was never okay.
“I am very concerned about the increasing abuse towards our hard-working general practice teams in WA from people seeking vaccine exemptions,” Dr Raman said.
“In WA, we have seen very disturbing cases of death threats, abusive and threatening behaviour. This sort of behaviour is never okay.
“Thankfully, it is just a small minority of patients, and for the most part people are appreciative of GPs and practice teams and understand we’re doing the best we can in challenging times. However, we cannot ignore this situation.
“We are hearing of GPs, and other practice team members who are fearful going to work in WA. They’ve had awful experiences and just don’t know what they might have to deal with next. So, even if it’s a minority of patients, clearly it is not okay. We need to do better to ensure the safety and wellbeing of frontline health workers.”
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.”