Coronavirus vaccine exemption: Why so few Aussies qualify for medical exemption
Hesitant Aussies are clogging the GP system asking for medical exemptions from Covid-19 vaccines – but extremely few people will actually qualify.
People who are hesitant to get vaccinated against coronavirus have been turning up to general practitioners demanding medical exemption certificates to avoid the jab.
But a GP lobby group has said very few people will qualify for such an exemption and the unnecessary requests are adding to the strain on the medical system.
“It’s causing real pressure … and doctors are under pressure just delivering the usual medical care to the population as well as the massive vaccination rollout,” Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price told Channel 7’s Sunrise program.
A majority of eligible Australians have rolled their sleeves up to get at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
There are good reasons to do so – with the virus spreading widely in NSW and Victoria, many will be at risk getting infected over the coming weeks and months.
Getting vaccinated gives a great degree of protection against serious illness and death from Covid-19 and can even limit the spread of the virus.
Those who get vaccinated will also be offered special perks.
In NSW, fully vaccinated residents are allowed to hang out in groups of five outdoors starting this week, and next month a wide range of loosened restrictions will apply to those who have had both doses of a vaccine.
For those who hesitate to get jabbed, it may seem tempting to seek an exemption from a doctor because such a document would theoretically allow a person to take advantage of the freedoms without lining up for a shot.
But Dr Price warned doctors had little wiggle room to write an exemption certificate.
“The guidelines are pretty clear, there are very, very, very few medical exemptions to vaccination,” she said.
NSW Health has made a template exemption form for medical professionals available online.
It spells out the limited circumstances where a doctor can deem it medically unwise to administer a vaccine.
For all vaccines, a serious adverse reaction to a first dose can be a reason to be exempt from the second one.
For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the only other listed reason is a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine component.
For AstraZeneca, the possible reasons are a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine component, a history of capillary leak syndrome or a history of one of four specific medical conditions: cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), idiopathic splanchnic vein thrombosis or antiphospholipid syndrome (APLS) with thrombosis.
There is also a section for each vaccine where a doctor can record an “other specified medical contraindication”.
The only people who would qualify for an exemption from vaccination requirements under the NSW Health orders would be those who were unable to have any of the available vaccines.
“If you can’t have one vaccine, you can have another,” Dr Price said.
There is also a legitimate reason for a specific group of people to temporarily hold off on getting vaccinated: Some people who have been acutely ill from a Covid-19 infection should wait up to six months before getting a shot, the NSW Health form says.
Because the people who would actually qualify for a medical exemption are so few, most who are hesitant can assume they will not get the exemption form signed.
Those who don’t have any of the medical issues that would make them exempt, but who are hesitant anyway, should talk through their concerns with their doctor.
“What we would encourage people is to not come in and ask for an exemption certificate but to come in and talk about what their fears and concerns are,” Dr Price said.
“Because if they’re asking for an exemption certificate and they don’t fit the criteria, then you know they’ve probably had a dose of misinformation.”