Expanded access to subsidised oral antiviral Paxlovid and other COVID-19 supports

From 1 April, more than 160,000 people aged 60 to 69 will have access to the antiviral treatment Paxlovid as the Albanese Government expands eligibility under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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From 1 April, more than 160,000 people aged 60 to 69 will have access to the antiviral treatment Paxlovid as the Albanese Government expands eligibility under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

The change was recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and means Australians in this age group with only one risk factor for severe illness – instead of two – will get access to PBS-subsidised Paxlovid. 

Individuals should have early discussions with their doctor or nurse practitioner about whether an oral antiviral treatment suits their health needs, and develop a plan should they test positive. 

New milestone reached as ad campaign for the 2023 booster dose launches  

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout has reached a significant milestone with more than one million people receiving their 2023 booster dose. 

Around 7 in 10 Australians who’ve taken up the 2023 booster are aged 60 and over. 

With the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increasing with age, particularly for those over 70, this will provide important protection as Australia moves into the cooler months, when other viruses circulate. 

In February this year, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advised that all adults who have not had a COVID-19 infection or vaccine in the past 6 months can top up their protection with the latest vaccine, irrespective of how many other doses they have had. 

Accordingly, from 31 March the Government will update its methodology for reporting vaccine uptake to match ATAGI’s shift from numbered to time-based doses. 

The weekly statistics will transparently report on how many adults have received a 2023 booster dose; how many have received a dose in the past 6 months; how many have received one more than 6 months ago, and how many are completely unvaccinated. 

To further support the 2023 booster campaign, on April 2, the Government will launch a new advertising campaign across a range of media, including television, radio, cinema, billboards, digital and social media. 

COVID-19 leave grants to support aged care workers  

From 1 April, new Aged Care Worker COVID-19 leave grants will be available to support permanent or casual aged care workers caring for older Australians most at risk of severe illness. 

Workers can receive a payment of up to $750 directly from their employer when they are required to take leave related to COVID-19 and have no leave entitlements available. 

The grants will help to further protect people living in residential aged care, or those receiving home care packages, by allowing staff who test positive to COVID-19 to stay home while unwell.   

Providers of Australian Government-funded residential aged care homes and approved home care packages will be able to apply for reimbursement for payments made from 1 April 2023, every three months through the Department of Health and Aged Care. 

The High Risk Settings Pandemic Payment scheme ends on 31 March 2023. 

Chief Medical Officer’s fourth wave report 

The Government has released a report by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, on the lessons of the fourth wave of the Omicron variant. 

Professor Kelly’s report notes the fourth wave, which ended in late February, was longer than previous waves but led to less severe illness than the third wave in winter 2022. 

Professor Kelly says the focus of Australia’s response to the pandemic should continue to be on improving health outcomes for those at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including older Australians, those with disability, those with complex pre-existing medical conditions, and the immune-compromised. 

See Professor Kelly’s report.

Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:  

“More than one million Australians have already received their 2023 COVID-19 booster dose and around 7 in 10 of those boosters have gone to people aged 60 and over.” 

“If it has been six months since your last COVID vaccine or infection, you can now top up your protection with the latest vaccine.” 

“If you’re newly-eligible for the oral antiviral Paxlovid, I encourage you to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner and develop a plan for if you test positive.” 

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