Rural GPs' vaccination delays raise concerns over rollout - support group

Rural GP Network chief executive Grant Davidson.
Rural GP Network chief executive Grant Davidson. Photo credit: Supplied

The Rural GP Network is asking how it can be expected to push ahead with the vaccine rollout when most of its doctors have not received their immunisation.

The group says the Government's tiered rollout plan does not make sense in remote areas like the East Cape, and they should be able to vaccinate small communities in one hit.

Network chief executive Grant Davidson said he had not heard of any rural GPs getting the vaccine.

"We are in the middle of group two in which all front line workers should be vaccinated - we don't have figures on how many GPs have been given the vaccine because that information is held by DHBs," Davidson said.

"But anecdotally there very few and I haven't met any rural GPs that have been vaccinated."

If rural health practitioners knew the plan and how the vaccine was going to be rolled out they would be more at ease, Davidson said.

"Some doctors are being told to travel to main centres to get their vaccine but for some that is a 10-hour round trip."

Small communities should be vaccinated in one go, he said.

"Why would you go back through the priority groups in rural areas - I think you need to take the vaccine to those areas and vaccinate the whole area in one go."

The light at the end of the tunnel was that a rural health expert had been appointed to the COVID-19 vaccine implementation team, he said.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said doctors did not actually have to be vaccinated to be able to give the vaccine.

"The programmes are starting to roll out into rural areas and that has happened in some DHBs already and will continue, and of course the health workforce is the biggest priority in any area of New Zealand to get them vaccinated next.

"I'm looking forward to our rural communities getting vaccinated with flexibility around how that is done."