COVID vaccine rollout in Australia
Immunisation Coalition Position Statement:
A meeting of the Immunisation Coalition’s (IC) COVID clinical assessment team was held on 31st of May 2021 to consider the COVID vaccine rollout in Australia, in light of the current Victorian outbreak.
The paucity of data about levels of vaccine stock in Australia is of great concern. While acknowledging additional stocks are on order and new vaccines are under development, the reality is that Australia has only AstraZeneca (AZ) and Pfizer vaccines available at this time; we therefore need an effective vaccination program that uses them appropriately. The IC therefore believes transparency about the available stocks in Australia is essential to help providers and the community plan their vaccinations.
Furthermore, it was noted that vaccine induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), associated with the AZ, and reports of anaphylaxis, myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the use of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, occur rarely and can be well managed. It was noted that changing the vaccine interval for AZ would substantially alter its effectiveness and the benefit of earlier protection against greater long-term level of protection does not suggest a change is necessary in Australia at the moment. We do however recognise the shifting evidence, and the overseas experience suggests this can be considered if required.
The IC will adopt a role of making clearer the science around AZ and its potential side effects. For example, the guidelines for people under 50 years of age getting Pfizer and over 50s receiving AZ seem to be viewed as a choice rather than adhering to best use of vaccines in a pandemic. Letters from specialists thinking a patient should have a different vaccine seem to be propagated by convenience rather than evidence or reasons that can withstand scientific scrutiny. There is also an argument for raising the age recommended for AZ to 55+ as there is data that suggests the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) reduces remarkably by 55.
It was noted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) information is a useful resource. The IC will look at ways of increasing awareness of the evidence and improving the knowledge of risks and benefits to the community of the available vaccines.
It is important to have vaccination coverage rates at their best. As of 1st June 2021, influenza vaccines became mandatory for Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs), and with no evidence that flu and COVID vaccine can’t be given together, the IC recommends both vaccines be given at the same time in those settings (and other vaccines too).
31st May 2021
Check your symptoms, vaccine eligibility and current state or territory restrictions here
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Find out about current Australian COVID-19 restrictions here.
See frequently asked questions (FAQs) and other information here
Healthdirect website: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus
How hand sanitisers protect against infections and other information
This article by Compound Interest explains all you need to know about hand sanitisers and how they compare to hand washing with soap.
Access a Hand sanitiser Tool Kit from US Pharmacopeia
The use of masks
In areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for physical distancing, (such as public transport, healthcare settings, or other confined spaces), the use of face masks is recommended. While medical masks provide optimum protection, non-medical masks are still preferable to not wearing a mask in these situations.
It should be noted that masks alone are not sufficient to provide adequate protection against COVID-19. They should however be incorporated in an overall strategy to minimise the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19. Maintaining physical distance of at least 1 metre (more if possible) along with frequent hand washing and use of face masks offers the most effective means of protection.
- To be effective a mask needs to cover both the nose and the mouth
- Masks become less effective when they get moist so should be replaced if this happens.
- Avoid touching the outer facing surface of the mask as contamination can be an issue when removing and disposing of it.
- Masks should not be used as a substitute for physical isolation. Anyone with symptoms should not leave isolation unless for the purpose of seeking medical assistance.
For more detailed information about masks, and how and when to use them, see the World Health Organisation (WHO) website here.
How to put on and take off Personal Protective Equipment
Here is an easy to follow guide from the World Health Organisation’s website on how to put on and take off your PPE.
How to make your own mask
This PDF is from the Victorian Health Department and has all the information you need to make your own mask at home.
NCIRS - Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 vaccines
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has produced a Frequently Asked Questions page on the topic of COVID-19 vaccination. Access the page here.
Is it true? Countering the misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines
The Australian Government Health Department has developed a website page to help answer questions people may have about COVID-19 vaccines and to respond to vaccine misinformation. Visit the page here.