COVID-19 Tasmania: Launceston GP Dr Andrew Jackson to introduce a 'no vax, no visit' policy

ABOVE: Dr Andrew Jackson, of Mowbray's Northern Suburbs Medical Service, says it's important to take action now. Picture: Paul Scambler
ABOVE: Dr Andrew Jackson, of Mowbray's Northern Suburbs Medical Service, says it's important to take action now. Picture: Paul Scambler

A Tasmanian general practice is set to introduce a "no vax, no visit" policy.

Starting at Mowbray's Northern Suburbs Medical Service ifrom September 1, the policy will require patients and their visitors must have had at least one jab of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to be able to make appointments and attend the surgery in person.

The Launceston practice principal Dr Andrew Jackson said the policy was being introduced as a key safety measure for when the highly-infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 arrives in Tasmania.

"The closure or disruption of medical practice operations is a serious matter as it will prevent timely medial care being provided to the local community," Dr Jackson said.

"It is important to take action now and we have had a taste of the Delta variant in the north only in recent weeks."

Dr Jackson said the policy was aimed at reducing the risk to his staff, who are now all fully vaccinated, as well as patients in the waiting areas from contracting the disease - if an infected person was to enter the building.

It's also been designed to minimise the risk of the practice being declared a public exposure site, resulting in at a temporary closure as the result of a Public Health order.

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This Australian Medical Association recently warned that now was the time for jurisdictions where Delta had not yet taken hold, to establish pre-emptive restrictions.

The peak doctors body called on National Cabinet to immediately strengthen the national approach to preventing the spread of the Delta virus, especially in the states and territories where there is currently no community transmission.

"We can't be complacent in those places that don't have Delta because once we find it, it's often already spread significantly," AMA national president Dr Omar Khorshid said.

"We need a buffer to curb the spread that happens before we detect it, especially until we get vaccination rates up, in the form of sensible restrictions - things like caps on numbers in stadiums and nightclubs, mask wearing on public transport and social distancing.

"We can't take any chances with Delta. We need this short-term strategy of pre-emptive measures and a reasonable level of restrictions around the country, at least until the end of the year."

On Friday Premier Peter Gutwein released the government's contingency plan in preparation of future cases of COVID-19 being detected in the community.

It came two weeks after the state's first case of COVID-19 in more than seven months - a NSW man who was later confirmed to have the Delta variant.

The plan includes an immediate lockdown of three to five days, depending on the circumstances and the advice of Public Health, with Tasmanians over the age of 12 required to wear face masks outside, and people required to stay home unless for six essential reasons.

This includes attending medical or health care appointments, as well as COVID-19 testing or vaccinations.

Dr Jackson said the clinic would not be denying patients who "unwisely" chose not to receive a vaccine the right to care.

Rather, telehealth appointments would be made available, so unvaccinated patients wouldn't need to attend the surgery in person.

The Northern Suburbs Medical Service was one of the first GP practices to begin administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in March, with Dr Jackson breaking a national agreement and choosing to vaccinate himself and his staff days ahead of the start of a planned roll-out.

The practice has also been administering the Pfizer vaccine to eligible patients since July.

Since the start of the state government's Super Six vaccination blitz a week ago, more than 8000 Tasmanians have come forward to make an appointment for a first dose vaccine.

As Tasmania reaches the end of week 26 of its vaccine roll-out, more than 240,500 people have had at least one dose, and 151,593 Tasmanians are now fully vaccinated.

As the roll-out continues, Dr Jackson said the no vax, no visit policy was an important measure to protect his business, his staff - and most importantly his patients.

"As a COVID vaccinating practice for six months now, most people attending here will have had at least their first jab and will need to take no further action," he said.

"For those who have not had their first COVID jab, we are in a great position to be able to immediately offer an appointment, often within one week, to get started with vaccination.

"Ultimately this will be an important measure to maximise vaccine uptake, and prepare well in advance for the coming Delta COVID-19 onslaught."

This story GP to introduce a 'no vax, no visit' policy first appeared on The Examiner.