Shingles: Australian government defends vaccine rollout amid GP concerns over delays

The federal government has denied claims of delays in its $800m free shingles vaccine rollout, despite some GPs alerting to a lack of supply.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said almost half a million vaccines have been delivered since October, two months after the government announced that five million Australians would be able to access a free dose starting November 1.

This is despite reports from doctor’s associations including the Royal College of Australian General Practitioners claiming that some GP’s have been unable to order enough doses to meet patient demand.

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and will affect almost one in three Australians in their lifetime.

The government invested a total of $826.8 million into its vaccine program, which covers anyone aged 65 and over, First Nations people 50 years and over, and immunocompromised people 18 years and over at high risk of herpes zoster infection.

The 2-course Shingrix vaccine usually costs up to $560 and provides around 10 years of protection.

Mr Butler said GP’s should expect “substantial” deliveries of the vaccine over the course of January and said he was confident the program was running on schedule.

“The program’s only been running for seven or eight weeks and already we have delivered half a million doses of the vaccine with almost half a million due to be delivered in January alone,” Mr Butler said.

“After that hundreds and hundreds of thousands of vaccines have been ordered so we are very confident that the program has been delivered as we designed.”

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