Protecting Older Australians – COVID-19 Update 7 July 2021

In this edition: Advice on interval between first and second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination and the latest updates from NSW, SA and Qld Health.

Date published:
Health sector

Advice on interval between first and second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination

In some cases, residents in aged care facilities have missed their second dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. This may be due to, for example, being unwell on the day of the second dose in-reach clinic conducted by the Commonwealth’s vaccination teams.

Aged care facilities should work with their local Primary Health Network to organise a second Pfizer dose for these residents to occur within the recommended six week interval between first and second doses.

Where it is not possible to provide the second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose within the recommended six week interval, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises that:

  • Residents who receive a first dose vaccine should receive the second dose.
  • It is recommended the second dose be administered within 3 to 6 weeks.
  • In circumstances where the interval is longer than 6 weeks, residents should still receive a second dose.
  • If the second dose is administered later than the recommended 6 week interval, no further doses (i.e. a third) are required.
  • There is no time limit between receiving the second dose, however residents are not fully protected until they have received their second dose.

It is important to reassure residents and their families that if the second Pfizer vaccination occurs outside of the six week interval, the resident’s level of protection after the second dose is unlikely to be compromised.

ATAGI further advises that data on the real-world effectiveness and duration of protection from the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, including against current and emerging strains (variants), will inform future recommendations regarding the need for and timing of booster doses for all Australians.

NSW Health latest advice

The screening advice for Residential Aged Care Providers and Home Care Providers has been updated on 6 July 2021.

The key messages for this update are:

  • Although restrictions have been removed for Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory they remain affected areas with close and casual contact places of high concern.
  • Mask advice has been updated for Homecare Service providers. In areas outside the Greater Sydney region staff must wear surgical masks.

Visitor restrictions for NSW RACFs remain in place until further notice.

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

SA Health updated directions

The SA Government has made the following changes to the Emergency Management Directions:

Effective 10:49am Tuesday 6 July 2021, the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 37) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 has been revoked and replaced with Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 38) (COVID-19) Direction 2021.

The amendments revert the restrictions back to the previous level and are summarised as follows:

  • Care and Support Visits: removes the limitations of visitor numbers to a resident of a RACF as they relate to resident vaccination rates
  • Wearing of Masks: removes the requirements for masks to be worn by persons entering or raining on the premises of a RACF.

COVID-19 Infection Control Plan:
The Chief Public Health Officer has issued advice that RACF operators may once again make appropriate amendments to their approved COVID-19 Infection Control Plan without seeking additional approval from the Department for Health and Wellbeing (subject to contrary direction).

Important note re COVIDSAfeCheckIn (QR Codes):
Under the RACF Emergency Management Direction, the operator of a RACF must maintain a visitor register at point of entry to assist with contact tracing if an identified case of COVID-19 is confirmed. These requirements could be satisfied by the used of the SA Government approved contract tracing system, i.e. COVIDSAfeCheckin (QR code).

Whilst the use of a QR code is not currently mandatory in RACF, SA Health recommend COVIDSAfeCheckin as the preferred option for maintaining visitor entry records as it provides contact tracers with the most efficient access to this information in the event that SA Health need to quickly identify and notify those who have visited a particular site.

To generate a QR code for your site, an authorised person can create a Voluntary COVID-Safe Plan.

QLD Health - Vaccination requirements for students in RACFs in Restricted Areas

Please see letter from Dr Jeanette Young, Chief Health Officer, regarding students undertaking clinical placements in Restricted residential aged care facilities (RACFs).

From 8pm on Wednesday 7 July 2021, any student on a clinical placement who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter a restricted residential aged care facility.

This applies to any facility that is located in a Local Government Area (LGA) declared as a Restricted Area for the purposes of the Residential Aged Care Direction.

Being fully vaccinated means having both doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca. A student should not be taken to be vaccinated if they have had only one dose and are awaiting the second dose. Also, students who cannot be vaccinated due to a contraindication will not be permitted to enter the vulnerable facility while it is restricted. Students undertaking clinical placements have been eligible to receive a vaccination as part of Phase 1b.

As a reminder, for residential aged care facilities in Restricted Areas this also means general visitors are not permitted, residents may only leave in certain circumstances, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with the Moderate Risk guidance.

Further information on restrictions for aged care can be found on the Qld Health website.

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