Protecting Older Australians – COVID-19 update 6 April 2023

In this issue: Easter break support; Influenza vaccinations; 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose; Oral Antiviral treatment reminders and Aged care COVID-19 supports

Date published:
Health sector

Emergency support over the Easter break

Over the Easter period, if you encounter an emergency, please contact your local State Office. This is only for emergencies which cannot be resolved and need urgent escalation.

If you have a genuine emergency that must be resolved immediately, for example, if there is a risk to the safe care of residents or if your home must evacuate or access has been cut off and is running low on essential supplies, then please call.

For matters that do not require urgent attention, please email and your request will be actioned upon our return on Tuesday 11 April 2023.

Government supports, such as emergency PPE supplies and RAT kits, can be requested via the My Aged Care Provider Portal.

Influenza vaccinations

Influenza vaccination is particularly important this year. As travel continues to increase, seasonal influenza activity is anticipated in 2023, with the Australian community potentially more vulnerable to the virus this winter.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice strongly recommends that vaccination remains one of the most effective protective factors for both influenza and COVID-19. Both vaccines are recommended for residents ahead of the winter season.

Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and over (unless contraindicated). Free influenza vaccinations are available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people most at risk, including all eligible residents aged 65 years and older.

From early April 2023, influenza vaccines for the NIP will become available, subject to local supply arrangements in states and territories.

Co-administration of COVID-19 and flu vaccination

ATAGI advises that COVID-19 doses can be administered at the same time as the annual flu vaccination. Co-administration of COVID-19 doses and influenza vaccines for residents is both clinically safe and administratively efficient.

More information on access to influenza vaccinations through the NIP can be found on the Department's website. Promotional materials including posters and brochures are available from the 2023 influenza resource collection.

What you need to do

Aged care providers must have arrangements in place for the delivery of influenza vaccines for their residents and staff. This includes making sure processes are in place, engaging with your immunisation providers and discussing the program with staff, residents and their families. This is a requirement to comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards.

Your service must take precautions to prevent and control influenza and minimise infection-related risks. This includes:

  • identifying and complying with all relevant Commonwealth and state or territory legislation and regulatory requirements
  • having an effective infection prevention and control program that is in line with national guidelines
  • offering free flu vaccinations every year to your staff and volunteers and keeping records of their vaccinations.

You must also demonstrate:

  • how you have promoted and informed your staff and volunteers about the benefits of vaccination, including obtaining consent
  • the steps you have taken to encourage staff and volunteers to get vaccinated.

For more information, refer to the Quality of Care Principles 2014 and the Records Principles 2014.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission assesses compliance with the influenza vaccination program.

For those not eligible for NIP funded vaccines, influenza vaccines are available through private market arrangements. If you have not already done so, you are strongly encouraged to implement arrangements to ensure you meet the requirements set out in the legislation – including working with your immunisation providers to facilitate staff vaccinations.

If you require assistance in organising influenza vaccinations, contact your vaccination provider or your state or territory Department of Health as soon as possible.

Advice for aged care workers

Aged care workers are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with their influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations to aid protection against both infection and severe disease for themselves and the people they care for.

Some jurisdictions may have requirements in relation to worker COVID-19 vaccinations. Aged care workers and providers should stay up to date with the settings in place in their jurisdiction and note that these settings do change.

2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

Providers are encouraged to work with primary care providers to plan for residents to receive the COVID-19 booster dose as soon as they are eligible, rather than waiting for all residents to become eligible at the same time. Administration of a 2023 COVID-19 booster dose should aim to occur prior to June 2023 and at a time of 6 months or greater following the most recent COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection.

The recommended booster dose will bolster residents' protection from severe illness, hospitalisation, or death from COVID-19 over the winter season. Primary care providers (general practitioners, registered nurses in general practices, community pharmacies) are best placed to provide this service. If you are experiencing difficulty in arranging vaccinations, the Department will facilitate linkages to providers to arrange vaccinations for new residents or existing residents as they become eligible, noting no minimum number of residents is required.

For the next 12 months, COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be principally administered in residential aged care homes by primary care providers. These primary care providers delivered the majority of COVID-19 vaccinations in residential aged care in 2022 and are well placed to continue this important work.

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.

If you do not already have a vaccine provider, the Department will be able to assist in organising a primary care provider to deliver the COVID-19 booster vaccines dose. For assistance, please email:

COVID-19 vaccination consent

As with all vaccines, valid consent is required before administering a COVID-19 vaccine dose. While written consent is not mandatory for residents, vaccination providers should ensure they record that an individual has given their consent for a COVID-19 vaccination according to the requirements of their state/territory.

The Australian Government has prepared written consent forms which can be used to provide consent to participate in the vaccination program, including to receive a booster dose. You can also use your own form, but it must capture the necessary information to show that the person consents to a COVID-19 vaccine. For some residents, consent will need to be sought from a substitute decision-maker and through a supported decision-making process.

The consent form should be used in combination with the ATAGI COVID-19 clinical guidance, which will assist in discussions around consent and any medical contraindications or issues that may arise in your conversations with patients.

Reminder – oral Antiviral treatment

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.

From 1 April 2023 people aged 60 to 69 years with one risk factor will now be eligible to receive Paxlovid® for treatment of COVID-19.

If you need assistance accessing a prescriber, consider HealthDirect’s free helpline 1800 022 222 or the online Service Finder.

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:

Reminder – aged care COVID-19 Supports

PPE – Winter deployment

The Australian Government continues to support the sector ahead of winter by deploying personal protective equipment (PPE) packs to all Commonwealth funded RACHs, MPSs, and NATSIFACP services. Deliveries have commenced and all deliveries will be completed by late May 2023.

Since 10 March, the NMS’s logistics provider, DHL, has been contacting providers to confirm delivery arrangements. All providers should now have been in contact with DHL however, if you have not been contacted please contact the Department at

The 2023 Winter pack includes a 3-day supply of all the PPE items listed below. The size of the packs is based on the number of residents at each home and cannot be modified. Expiry dates of PPE will cover the winter season until at least 31 August 2023.


Extra small Small Medium Large Extra large
Face shields 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,200 1,600
Gloves (L)






Gloves (M)






Gloves (S)






Gloves (XL)












P2 N95






Surgical Masks












  • Please note numbers are an estimate only, actual quantities delivered vary as quantities are rounded to the nearest carton by the logistics provider and may change depending on availability.

Please ensure you have sufficient storage onsite to store your pack when it is delivered. Packs contain set quantities of PPE - facilities are not able to select specific items and must accept all items in the pack as delivered.

Surge workforce

Residential aged care homes that need temporary surge workforce can contact the Department once all other attempts to access staff from your organisation’s internal or agency workforce have been unsuccessful. In the first instance the provider should aim to self-manage their workforce where possible.

For further information on surge workforce, please refer to COVID-19 Aged Care Workforce Measures FAQs.

For processing of workforce requests please contact the Department via email:

Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) kits

The Australian Government continues to provide RAT kits to all residential aged care homes for surveillance screening of staff and visitors. These will be delivered without you needing to place a request.

Should you wish to opt out of receiving this supply or alter the quantity and/or frequency of supply please contact the Department by email:

Having effective surveillance testing in place will let you detect COVID-19 much earlier and enact a swifter response.

We recommend conducting surveillance screening of staff at least 2 times per week and not more than 72 hours apart, or on entry for each visitor. This should increase to daily testing of staff, visitors and residents during an outbreak to help minimise the spread of infections.

Visitors can use their own RAT kits prior to their visit and may be asked to provide evidence of their test result.

It is inappropriate for homes to charge for the use of RAT kits provided by the Australian Government through the National Medical Stockpile.

Reporting COVID-19 cases in your service

Residential aged care providers are required to report ALL COVID-19 cases for residents, staff and visitors immediately to the Department of Health and Aged Care via the My Aged Care COVID-19 Support Portal.

With the State and Territory network Case Management inboxes no longer being monitored for updates to COVID cases, closures or requests for Commonwealth support, the My Aged Care COVID-19 Support Portal replaces email notification of a positive case in your facility.

You should also report COVID-19 positive cases to your Public Health Unit (PHU) immediately, if required. PHUs may require detailed individual-level information to assist aged care services.

In-reach testing

In-reach COVID-19 PCR testing continues to be available through pathology providers to residential aged care homes that are managing COVID-19 outbreaks, including through a dedicated service provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic) until 30 April 2023.

It remains a requirement that any requests for COVID-19 PCR testing should only be made where a medical practitioner GP has determined the testing is necessary to inform the clinical management of the resident or where the public health unit has determined PCR testing is needed to support outbreak management activities.

Requests for in-reach PCR testing from Sonic can be made by emailing the Department:

Testing pathways from 1 May 2023

From 1 May 2023, residential aged care homes will continue to have access to COVID-19 PCR testing through standard Medicare arrangements, where GPs and nurse practitioners can directly request, by referral, COVID-19 and respiratory PCR tests from a pathology provider to assist with the clinical management of patients.

Any COVID-19 PCR testing under Medicare must be bulk-billed and at no cost to aged care homes or patients and treating practitioners need to give referrals to pathology providers.

Providers will organise collection and testing of samples, including onsite testing (like the Sonic service) and results reported directly to the treating practitioner. Some pathology providers may give RACHs access to their residents’ test results via an online portal similar to the Sonic Dx test result portal.


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