The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated their advice for the COVID-19 booster dose.
Residential aged care homes are responsible for ensuring residents have access to the recommended COVID-19 vaccine dose as soon as they are eligible.
On 12 December 2022, the Australian Government launched the National COVID-19 Health Management Plan. The National Plan recognises that health response measures are still required to protect those most at risk from COVID-19.
Throughout 2023, COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be principally administered in residential aged care homes by primary care providers such as general practitioners and pharmacists.
Additional help for aged care will be provided through the Vaccine Administration Partners Program (VAPP). The VAPP will deliver COVID-19 vaccine in-reach clinics in residential aged care homes as a last resort option in circumstances where there is a shortfall in primary care availability to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in this setting.
Primary Health Networks (PHNs) will continue to receive funding under the Vulnerable Vaccination Program to develop and implement innovative, short-term COVID-19 vaccination activities. PHNs will tailor these activities to the needs of priority populations in their regions, including aged care. This will allow PHNs to partner with primary care vaccination providers, local organisations and service providers to protect those most at risk from COVID-19.
For more information, see the National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023.
If you have any questions, please email RACFVaccineClinics@health.gov.au.
COVID-19 vaccination booster recommendations
If it has been 6 months since receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or confirmed COVID-19 infection, an additional dose:
- is recommended for people aged 75 or older
- should be considered for people aged 65 to 74 years and people aged 18 to 64 years with severe immunocompromise following discussion with their healthcare provider.
Aged care residents who have not yet received any booster dose this year are advised to do so.
All COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to provide benefit to eligible people. However, the monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines are preferred over other vaccines for eligible people.
Older age continues to be the biggest risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 vaccination reduces the risk of serious illness and death.
Read the frequently asked questions for residential aged care providers and workers on ATAGI's advice for the COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Engage with your Primary Health Network
Residential aged care homes are encouraged to engage with your Primary Health Network for assistance in securing a primary care vaccination provider if you do not have an existing GP or pharmacist available.
How to support resident and worker vaccination
As a residential aged care service provider, you have an important role in ensuring your residents and workers are protected against serious illness or death from COVID-19.
Residents who are not yet vaccinated, or are now eligible for their next dose, should be supported to access a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly and safely as possible. Residents can receive a vaccination by a visiting GP or Pharmacist to your aged care home. Talk to your Primary Health Network if you require assistance accessing a local primary care channel.
Residential aged care workers may be required by a state or territory public health order to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccination continues to be important in managing the risk related to COVID-19 in high-risk settings such as residential aged care.
You are encouraged to print and display posters in your aged care home in staff areas to promote the importance of being up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.
It is important that employers consider COVID-19 vaccination in their COVID-19 risk management plans and consider its inclusion in occupational health programs going forward. This approach reduces risk for both residents and workers.
Preparing for your COVID-19 vaccination clinic
Residential aged care homes are responsible for:
- preparing your aged care home and residents for vaccination clinics
- obtaining and recording residents' consent
- monitoring and reporting adverse side effects
- providing information to your residents and workers.
The following resources are available to help you plan and prepare for COVID-19 vaccination clinics at your aged care home.
- Fact sheet for residents and families on the COVID-19 booster program
- Fact sheet for workers on the COVID-19 booster program
- Roles and responsibilities in residential aged care for clinics delivered by Commonwealth vaccine providers
- Vaccine dose policy – this policy provides guidance on administering vaccines in aged care homes. It includes information about primary, booster and Winter dose eligibility, managing excess doses and make up doses.
- Planning checklist for vaccination day – a checklist for residential aged care homes to prepare for the booster vaccination clinic
- Clinical governance requirements – sets out the roles and responsibilities of the residential aged care home and the vaccine workforce, in planning and preparing for the Commonwealth in-reach clinic, on the day of the clinic, and after the clinic
- Site readiness checklist – a checklist for the physical clinic set up
- What to expect on vaccination day – information for residents, families and carers about what to expect in the lead up to, and on vaccination day.
How to obtain and record resident consent
As with all other vaccines, informed consent is required for each COVID-19 vaccine dose, including booster doses. Residential aged care providers are responsible for this process which must be completed ahead of the vaccination day.
Guidance on consent in the residential aged care context can assist with this process.
Does my aged care home need to receive consent prior to each dose?
You need to obtain the resident's consent to receive a primary course of a COVID-19 vaccine. For most people a primary course is 2 doses. You can obtain consent for both doses at the same time, prior to the person receiving their first dose.
You are also required to support residents to consent separately to receiving booster doses and to making the consent forms available to the vaccine provider on the day of clinic.
You must keep a record of the resident's consent. This record is used to confirm consent prior to vaccination.
If you are obtaining consent verbally, you must confirm if consent is being provided for both doses of the same vaccine for a primary course of a COVID-19 vaccine, for a booster dose or for a winter dose. Record this through your usual practices.
Our consent form provides that consent is for a primary course of a COVID-19 vaccine (2 doses of the same vaccine), a third dose for people who are severely immunocompromised, an initial booster dose or a winter dose.
Residential aged care providers are responsible for keeping consent records for all residents.
Vaccine providers may request a copy of residents' consent records from the residential aged care home. You can provide this on request, however, must retain the original consent records on site.
For more information about valid consent, refer to the Australian Immunisation Handbook: Preparing for vaccination – Valid consent.
Some jurisdictions have specific requirements relevant to guardians (or substitute decision-makers) consenting on behalf of another person. Refer to relevant state and territory laws for more information.
Provide information to your residents
You need to provide residents and/or their representatives with detailed and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccination. You should give the following information before vaccination day (translated information available):
- COVID-19 booster vaccine advice
- What to expect on vaccination day
- Pfizer vaccine and rare side effects
- Moderna vaccine and rare side effects
- Consent form.
These information sheets are available in other languages.
How do I monitor and report adverse events?
Residential aged care homes must monitor residents for any side effects after vaccination. These are usually mild and go away within 2 days. They include:
- pain or swelling at the injection site
- muscle pain
- joint pain.
If residents experience pain at the injection site or fever, headaches or body aches after vaccination, they can take paracetamol or ibuprofen. These help to reduce the above symptoms (they do not need to take paracetamol or ibuprofen before vaccination). If there is swelling at the injection site, they can use a cold compress.
Reporting adverse events
Health professionals are encouraged to report all serious reactions, known as adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) – particularly if they are unexpected or significant.
If a resident has an immediate serious reaction or is unwell in the days after a vaccination, you can report it to either:
- your state or territory health unit
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Vaccine workforce provider in-reach teams are responsible for monitoring residents and reporting serious reactions for the first 15 minutes post-vaccination. After that initial period, residential aged care homes are responsible for monitoring and reporting any serious reactions.
Learn more about record keeping and reporting requirements.