Indemnity for GPs administering COVID-19 vaccines

In an important and anticipated statement, the Australian Government has given its assurance that doctors will not be held liable in the event that a COVID-19 vaccination is linked to subsequent side effects – but we need more detail.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt assured Australians that the Government will take on any indemnity issues that might arise from potential side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19.   

"On indemnity, I want to make something very, very clear," Minister Hunt told reporters on Sunday. 

"Australia already has vaccine indemnity agreements in place. I am saying this on behalf of the Government but also on behalf of our legal advice, no doctor need worry," Minister Hunt said. 

The Minister was speaking in response to months of AMA behind the scenes advocacy, with AMA Federal President Dr Omar Khorshid saying he would continue to work with the Government to turn this public commitment into a clearly defined program.   

Dr Khorshid said doctors had “strong and clear support for the vaccination program” and wrote to AMA GP members this week acknowledging the challenges they are facing. 

“I know some GPs remain worried about medical indemnity coverage for providing advice to patients about AstraZeneca as well as for its administration. The AMA has been repeatedly and categorically assured by Medical Defence Organisations (MDOs) that doctors are covered by their policies and MDOs are providing this same advice to their members in the strongest terms. Vaccine manufacturers have also been indemnified by the Commonwealth. 

“The Government’s decision to position general practice at the centre of its roll out plans was the correct one. The AMA, along with other GP bodies, continues to try and work with the Government to address problems as they arise, maintain public confidence, and ensure that GPs get the support and recognition they deserve. 

“While this guarantee is welcome, we need more detail about what mechanisms it would use and the exact circumstances that would see the Commonwealth act on this,” Dr Khorshid said.  

Read Dr Khorshid’s letter to AMA GP members here. 

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