Canberra general practitioners were inundated with calls on Tuesday with Canberra's under-40s racing to get vaccination appointments, following advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that they were free to do so.
Kingston Foreshore Medical Centre received two weeks worth of vaccine bookings in the 24 hours following Monday's national cabinet meeting, including a number of booking requests from people in their 20s wanting to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A doctor at the centre said the spike in requests for AstraZeneca was despite the centre increasing access to Pfizer from mid-July.
Manuka Medical Centre reception staff said they received several calls from people in their 30s and 40s on Tuesday and were bracing for an increase in bookings throughout the week.
The race for the AstraZeneca jab followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement of a new no-fault indemnity scheme for GPs who administer COVID-19 vaccines.
The scheme will cover GPs who provide the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 60-year-olds if they ask for it, despite ATAGI advice recommending the AstraZeneca for older Australians.
Following the announcement, head of the Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid has come out against the decision, urging young adults to follow the expert advice.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was surprised by the Prime Minister's "captain's call" regarding the AstraZeneca advice.
In his address to the nation this week, the PM said the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"If you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to a, go and have that discussion with your GP," Mr Morrison said.
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"And secondly, we are also providing the indemnity scheme for those general practitioners so they can actively engage with you and you can make the best decision for your health."
Ainslie Family Practice has started contacting patients aged 50 to 59 who had initially booked in for an AstraZeneca shot which was cancelled following the latest recommendation from ATAGI.
The practice's medical director David Brand said many of their patients had been disappointed they couldn't go ahead with their appointments.
"We've had a number of much younger people come and make inquiries about [vaccination] and certainly they have been keen to get it done," Dr Brand said.
"The big problem has been with all of this is it hasn't been a very consistent message."
Dr Brand said while it took a little time for the practice to fully understand the new messaging, doctors had decided to let their patients make the decision on medical advice.
"Provided patients sign a waiver and are adequately informed, I don't think any of the doctors here are unhappy about giving people, even down to over-18s, a shot," he said.
"We've decided it's really up to our patients to make that call, provided they understand completely what the problems could be."
People under 40 were also given the opportunity to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online through HotDoc from Tuesday, with the nearest location of GPs willing to administer AstraZeneca provided.
Several GPs reportedly turned younger Canberrans away despite having their details listed on HotDoc, with blindsighted doctors still scrambling to understand the federal government's change of direction.
The ACT government said as the federal government was responsible for the GP vaccine rollout it was up them to advise GPs of the changes and what it meant for them.
"We support GPs who are participating in the Commonwealth program to make their own decisions about providing the COVID-19 vaccine," an ACT Health spokeswoman said.
"We respect that some participating GPs may choose to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 40s and others will not."
Those who called the National Health Co-op faced longer than usual wait times this week. Those who held the line were told the Co-op would not take bookings for under 60s until it received direction from ACT government to do so.
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