Date published: 
18 June 2021
Type: 
Newsletter
Intended Audience: 
Health sector

Updated ATAGI recommendations on the use of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca

The Australian Government yesterday accepted new advice provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in response to new vaccine safety concerns.

ATAGI recommends the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to under 60 years.

This updates the previous preferential recommendation for Comirnaty over COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in those aged 16 to under 50 years.

The recommendation is revised due to a higher risk and observed severity of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine observed in Australia in the 50-59 year old age group than reported internationally and initially estimated in Australia.

For those aged 60 years and above, the individual benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are greater than in younger people. The risks of severe outcomes with COVID-19 increase with age and are particularly high in older unvaccinated individuals. The benefit of vaccination in preventing COVID-19 with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca outweighs the risk of TTS in this age group and underpins its ongoing use in this age group.

People of any age without contraindications who have had their first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events should receive a second dose of the same vaccine. This is supported by data indicating a substantially lower rate of TTS following a second COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca dose in the United Kingdom (UK).

You can read the full ATAGI advice online, media release from the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP and statement from Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer.

All first dose clinics have been completed in the 2,566 residential aged care facilities receiving COVID-19 vaccination clinics (Pfizer) through the Commonwealth’s vaccine roll out in aged care. Of those, second dose clinics have been completed in 2,478 facilities. There is no change to the completion of the remaining second dose clinics.

The current dose policy enables a first dose Pfizer vaccine to be administered at a facility’s second dose clinic to workers regardless of their age, where doses are available. Workers that receive a first dose this way must agree to take responsibility for obtaining their second dose from an alternative location.

Aged care workers aged 50-59 who are yet to receive a first dose vaccination will now be offered a Pfizer vaccine through the existing Pfizer vaccination pathways for people aged under 50, including state and territory run vaccination clinics and Commonwealth vaccination clinics.

The Department is in the process of updating the COVID-19 eligibility checker on the health.gov.au website and resources for the aged care sector. Thank you for your patience while this is undertaken.

Weekly reporting requirements on aged care workforce COVID-19 vaccination

It is now mandatory for providers of residential aged care services to provide weekly updates every Tuesday on the COVID-19 vaccination status of their aged care workforce.

Mandatory reporting began for residential aged care providers on 15 June 2021.

Providers of in-home and community aged care services are strongly encouraged to consider and put in place now the systems and processes required for collecting and reporting the required data, and to commence reporting voluntarily.

Further guidance will be provided to in-home and community aged care providers shortly, including expected start dates for mandatory reporting.

Reporting can be accessed via the My Aged Care provider portal.

The new reporting for providers is to record de-identified data at a service level on the:

  • total number of workers at each aged care service, and of those,
  • the number of workers at each service who have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • the number of workers at each service who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Guidance and further information is available via Health.gov.au. This page will be updated with FAQs to support providers in meeting their reporting requirements.

New translated fact sheets for aged care workers about reporting of COVID-19 vaccination status

Available in 19 languages, fact sheets are now available for aged care workers explaining the new reporting of the aged care workforce COVID-19 vaccination status by providers.

All providers are encouraged to share the translated fact sheets with your staff, colleagues and networks.

Single site arrangements for COVID-19 impacted areas of Greater Melbourne further extended to 8 July 2021

In response to cases of COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities over the past 14 days in Victoria, Australian Government grant funding has been further extended for two weeks to 8 July 2021 to enable residential aged care providers to continue single site worker arrangements in Greater Melbourne. Grant funding is available to support providers with out of pocket costs associated with implementing single site arrangements in Greater Melbourne for the six week period from 27 May 2021 to 8 July 2021.

During this period, providers and workers should be implementing single site arrangements as a key step to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 between facilities.

As specified in the de-escalation criteria set out in the National COVID-19 Aged Care Plan, an area will continue to be considered a hotspot should there be COVID-19 cases associated with residents or staff in residential aged care facilities in the past 14 days. As a result of cases recorded over the past 14 days, single site arrangements will remain in place for a further two weeks to 8 July 2021. Arrangements may be further extended on the advice of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer and in line with the de-escalation criteria, including an assessment of the risk to vulnerable populations such as those in aged care.

Key to this arrangement is ensuring that workers are not financially disadvantaged during this period and that they continue to receive the income they may have received from other residential aged care providers. Where this results in additional out of pocket costs for the primary employer, reimbursement can be sought through the grant application process. The Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant opportunity remains open until 31 December 2021.

In addition to funding support, providers can also access guidance on practical implementation of single site arrangements, including employee relations expertise, through the Guiding Principles Support Hub website or hotline on 1800 491 793.

Vic. – Update from DHHS

The Victorian DHHS advise that restrictions on visitors to aged care facilities still apply and permitted workers in aged care facilities across Victoria must wear a face mask indoors and outdoors where a distance of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained, unless an exception applies, and comply with the Department’s PPE requirements.

Please read the advice DHHS have sent to RACFs in Metro Melbourne and RACFs in Regional Victoria and refer to the advice table for RACFs in Metro Melbourne and the advice table RACFs in Regional Victoria.

NSW – Updated advice for aged care providers

The screening advice for Residential Aged Care Providers and Home Care Providers has been updated on 18 June 2021. The key messages for this update are:

  • Until further notice facilities in Greater Sydney (including Nepean Blue Mountains, but excluding Central Coast and Illawarra) should follow the advice that:
    • All staff and visitors must wear a surgical mask
    • Only two visitors should be allowed each day
    • Visits should be in the resident’s room.
  • Until further notice Home Care provider staff working in Greater Sydney (including Nepean Blue Mountains, but excluding Central Coast and Illawarra) must wear a surgical mask.
  • There are new close and casual contact locations in the Sydney region and there are still regional NSW sites current. Please note the advice for regional NSW will be removed at 11.59 pm on Saturday 19 June 2021.
  • There are new COVID-19 exposure locations in ACT.

This information can change rapidly so please check the NSW Health at least daily for updates.

ACT – CHO Updated advice

The ACT Chief Health Officer has issued an updated alert regarding the COVID-19 situation in other Australian states and territories. Please read the 18 June 2021: CHO alert for new information, the main change to the CHO advice:

  • Eastern Sydney LGAs (from the 11th of June) have been added as geographical areas of risk:
    • Waverley
    • Sydney
    • Bayside
    • City of Ryde
    • Woollahra

There are a number of COVID-19 exposure locations in ACT, NSW, QLD and VIC. COVID-19 Areas of Concern are regularly updated with exposure locations.

ACT aged care providers can find out more information from ACT Government.

State and territory aged care COVID-19 information

As the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly, aged care providers are reminded to stay up to date on visitor restrictions, PPE requirements and other measures relating to COVID-19 in aged care, from their relevant state or territory website below:

Further information and advice
Please visit the Department of Health's website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak, including what to do in the first 24 hours of an outbreak in a residential aged care facility.

PPE

Aged care providers are asked to ensure they have a sufficient supply of PPE, to use their own supply of PPE first and to request extra supply for emergency purposes as and when needed.

The Commonwealth is prioritising requests for PPE from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need. The deployment of PPE is only where commercial supply is unavailable, and where there is a government direction regarding COVID-19 PPE requirements or demonstrated clinical need.

If you urgently need PPE and cannot source it, please submit an online application before 3pm (AEST) each business day. The application will need to be completed for your request to be considered.