Upcoming Webinar: aged care COVID-19 update – 26 May 2023
The Department of Health and Aged Care is holding a webinar on winter preparedness, including important information on COVID-19 booster doses for older people, including people living in aged care homes.
When: Friday 26 May 2023 12.00pm to 1.00pm (AEST).
Please register to attend.
There will be a moderated Q&A session with Departmental officials, and we encourage you to submit questions in advance through the registration link.
Covid-19 infections in the community are on the rise. There has also been an increase in outbreaks within residential aged care including a higher number of resident and staff infections.
Older people, including those living in residential aged care homes, remain a high priority for the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Vaccination remains one of the most important steps you can take to reduce the severity of the illness and remain out of hospital.
The expert Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends that all people over the age of 65 who have not had a COVID-19 vaccination or a COVID-19 infection within the last 6 months to get a 2023 booster dose.
The added protection through the 2023 booster is especially important for aged care residents and will help reduce the risk of severe illness or hospitalisation as we head towards winter. While there is still a level of residual protection present six month after a COVID-19 vaccination, protection wanes over time. Every additional dose increases protection against death from COVID-19, with the largest benefits for Australians in residential aged care homes. A recent Australian study found that between June and November 2022, 1 COVID-19 death was prevented among aged care residents for every 157 people boosted.
It is important that residents have every opportunity to receive a 2023 COVID-19 booster dose.
Where available, we strongly encourage the bivalent vaccine as this offers additional protection against the original COVID-19 virus and the most recent Omicron variants.
Providers and families of older people have an important role to play in offering and strongly recommending the 2023 COVID-19 vaccination boosters to residents. If residents, care recipients or their families have concerns about getting the booster, having early conversations and encouraging them to talk to their doctor or other health professional about the benefits and risks of vaccination can help.
There are resources available to support individuals and families to have informed conversations about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination dose:
- COVID-19 vaccine information for aged care providers, workers, residents and care recipients
- Who can get vaccinated
- Preparing for COVID-19 vaccination
- Consent form
- Translated information is also available in other languages.
We encourage all aged care providers to work with primary care providers to plan for residents to receive the COVID-19 booster dose as soon as they are eligible There is no minimum number of residents for a clinic to take place, and primary care providers are encouraged to administer 2023 booster doses even when there is a small number of eligible residents.
Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are working with residential aged care homes across Australia that might need assistance facilitating COVID-19 vaccinations. If you are a residential aged care provider and have not yet spoken with your PHN, reach out to them for any support needed or contact us at email@example.com.
A COVID-19 outbreak at a residential aged care home should not delay vaccinations for unaffected, eligible residents as long as infection prevention and control (IPC) measures are correctly observed and personal protective equipment is used appropriately.
As well as the COVID-19 booster, influenza vaccination is important again this year. We are starting see an increase in influenza activity which usually indicates that the influenza season is about to start.
The best way to protect against getting both infections is to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and to have an annual influenza vaccine. ATAGI advises that COVID-19 booster doses are safe to be administered at the same time as the annual influenza vaccination. Co-administration of COVID-19 doses and influenza vaccines for residents is both clinically safe and administratively efficient.
When organising influenza vaccination clinics in your aged care homes, please consider liaising with primary care providers to administer COVID-19 vaccines on the same day.
More information on access to influenza vaccination through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) can be found on the Department's website. Promotional materials including posters and brochures are available from the 2023 influenza resource collection.
Continued strong uptake of oral antiviral medications remain important in residential aged care settings. The oral antivirals Lagevrio® and Paxlovid® are available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Please ensure your COVID-19 positive residents have access to oral antivirals, prescribed by a medical practitioner as a priority.
People aged 60 to 69 years with one risk factor are now eligible to receive Paxlovid for treatment of COVID-19.
The Find a Pharmacy website is available for sourcing antivirals through community pharmacy channels, your Primary Health Network may also be able to assist connect you to a local prescriber.
If you are in outbreak and are unable to access antivirals quickly, please contact the Department via email: AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
The Australian Government continues to support the sector ahead of winter by deploying PPE packs to all Commonwealth funded residential aged care homes, MPSs, and NATSIFACP services. Deliveries have commenced, with all deliveries to be completed by late May 2023. If you have any questions, please contact the Department at AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
Providers are responsible for maintaining a PPE supply through existing commercial channels, however, emergency outbreak packs can be requested from the Department through the My Aged Care provider portal.
Please note as of 3 May 2023, goggles are no longer available for order through the Department. Face shields will continue to remain available as a suitable alternative.
For any queries about this change, please email AgedCareCOVIDEnquiries@health.gov.au.
Robust infection and prevention control (IPC) procedures have been a critical component of delivering safe and quality care in aged care when managing COVID-19 and other infectious outbreaks. Providers have a responsibility to ensure that policies, practices and processes are up to date, and that staff have the required level of training and competence to manage IPC.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission) has launched a new online tool to assist both residential aged care providers and home service providers to access key information and reference materials easily and quickly on IPC.
The IPC online tool provides easy access to the main aged care specific guidance documentation at both the federal and state levels, and providers can filter at the state or territory level, based on the information and location most relevant to them. This tool will be progressively built out to ensure it becomes a more fulsome toolkit to support the sector.
The new tool can be accessed on the Commission's website.
To assist with your winter preparedness, the Commission has written to approved providers and co-hosted a webinar with the Department of Health and Aged Care on effective IPC practices which you can access:
- A joint letter from the ACQSC Commissioner and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly on the need to be vigilant and maintain COVIDSafe behaviours.
- Webinar - The importance of effective IPC behaviours.
The Aged and Community Care Provider Association (ACCPA) hosted a webinar on Tuesday 9 May 2023 for Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) providers about preparing for the winter season through lessening the risks and impacts of influenza and COVID-19 infection.
Aimed at CHSP providers, this webinar provided an opportunity to talk about practical steps providers can take to prepare their service. You can view the recording of the webinar.
Resource that were referenced during the webinar included the following Australian Government documents for providers:
- National COVID 19 Health Management Plan
- National Statement of Expectations for Aged Care
- Community Protection Framework
- Winter Plan 2022
- CDNA Guidelines Outbreaks of Acute Respiratory Infection in Residential Care Facilities.
Updated factsheets are available:
- COVID-19 – Other support and program initiatives for CHSP providers
- COVID-19 & CHSP Information for clients, families and carers
CHSP providers are reminded to contact their Funding Arrangement Manager about any major disruptions to normal service delivery at their earliest opportunity.
CHSP providers can use the 100 percent flexibility provisions to re-distribute funding across their funded Aged Care Planning Regions to manage service demand.
CHSP providers can continue to apply for ad hoc funding under the CHSP Ad Hoc Proposals (GrantConnect GO5672) grant funding opportunity as a response to an unforeseen and exceptional circumstances, address gaps in service delivery and trial and implement new and innovative service delivery models. Applications are open until 30 April 2024.