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COVID-19 weekly update – 24 August 2022

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COVID-19 cases in the region

Over the last four weeks there were 32 660 cases of COVID in the region, and over the last week there has been a very significant and welcome decrease of 20 407 cases – however please continue to urge vigilance and maintain adherence to infection control protocols. 

Please note that the actual number of cases is likely to be much more. For further information please go to the latest NSW COVID statistics.

Infection control and wearing masks (staff and patients) is critically important. Practices are asked to ensure that their most vulnerable populations are fully vaccinated and where possible to ensure children with respiratory illnesses get access to care. If you would like an infectious control consultation or any other support, email coronvirus@cesphn.com.au

Free rapid antigen tests to support vulnerable communities

Free rapid antigen tests (RATs) are available to:

  • people with disability, immunocompromised people, and their carers
  • eligible Commonwealth Concession Card holders in NSW:
    • Pensioner Concession card
    • Commonwealth Seniors Health Care card
    • Health Care Card (including Low Income Health Care card) 
    • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange cards.

These tests are available from National Disability Insurance Scheme or Department of Communities and Justice contracted service providers.

If you are an eligible priority client RATs are available:

  • through organisations contracted by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to provide services to priority clients
  • if you’re registered for NDIS, RATs are available through your NDIS disability provider, if that provider is a not-for-profit charity or non-government organisation. 

If your provider requires an additional supply of RATs, they can get more information from the Department of Communities and Justice coronavirus websitelaunch.

Get them from your neighbourhood or community centre

If you’re a Commonwealth Concession Card holder, or you are not getting RATs through your DCJ contracted provider, or NDIS provider, you can get free RATs by going to any one of 200 neighbourhood and community centres across the state.

To find one, check your suburb in this A-Z list.

PDF and Excel versions are also available. You can find out more about the centres by searching for them at Service Seekerlaunch.

Taking a break from the COVID-19 Vaccination Program

General practices participating in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program now have the option to either:

  • Completely withdraw from the Program,
  • Selectively withdraw from specific vaccine types/brands,
  • Temporarily withdraw – take a break from the Program, with the option to recommence at any time to administer select vaccine/s you wish to administer

Contact your practice support officer or email practicesupport@cesphn.com.au if your practice wishes to withdraw from the program.

Vaccination services for people with disability

 In-reach vaccination service

Residential disability service providers can organise an in-reach COVID-19 vaccination service for residents. Contact disabilitycovidvaccinedelivery@health.gov.au to book a Commonwealth vaccination provider.

Specialist Immunisation Clinic

The Specialist Immunisation Clinic provides vaccination for people who have complex medical needs. Day admissions can be arranged for people who are difficult to immunise because of severe anxiety, needle fear or underlying behavioural disorders. Experienced staff can administer vaccines using relaxation or distraction techniques or, if required, can administer light sedation under close observation.

GPs can refer patients to attend the specialist clinic, which is free of charge for Medicare cardholders. To arrange an appointment, contact (02) 9382 1470 for the Randwick Specialist Immunisation Clinic or (02) 9845 1414 for the Westmead Specialist Immunisation Clinic. Referrals can also be emailed to SCHN-NSWISS@health.nsw.gov.au

Easy Vaccine Access (EVA)

EVA (Easy Vaccine Access) is a simple call-back service to help people book a COVID-19 vaccine. Simply send an SMS with ‘Hey EVA’ to 0481 611 382 and a trained operator will call to assist with booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Learn more here.

Support helplines for people with disability, providers, carers and families:

  • Disability Gateway: 1800 643 787
  • National Relay Service: 133 677 for people who are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline: 1800 020 080
    • Option 5: for people with disability, their families and carers
    • Option 4: for disability workers
    • Option 8: for people who speak a language other than English.
  • Translating and Interpreting Service: 131 450.

Covid Risk Calculator: a tool to address vaccine concerns

The Covid Risk Calculator (CoRiCal) is a tool to help people who are not sure about getting the COVID-19 vaccines. The tool calculates the chances of getting sick or dying from COVID-19 based on age and sex, and it also calculates the chances of developing certain rare conditions (eg TTS or myocarditis) from the vaccines. The risk is displayed as either “risk per million people” or “risk as a chance” – a one in x chance.

COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years

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From 5 September 2022, Moderna 6 months to under 5 years (Blue/Purple) vaccines will become available for some children aged 6 months to 4 years. Bookings will be made available on the Vaccine Clinic Finder website.

Not all children aged 6 months to 4 years are recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Recommended: ATAGI recommends COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 6 months to 4 years who are severely immunocompromised, have a disability, or have complex and/or multiple health conditions.
  • Not recommended: Children aged 6 months to 4 years who are not listed in the eligible categories are at a low risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 are not recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at this time.

Should pregnant women receive a second COVID-19 booster?

The COVID-19 vaccination decision guide has been updated to include recommendations on a second booster dose (also known as a fourth dose) in pregnant women. ATAGI does not recommend a fourth dose for all pregnancies at this time:

Second booster recommended:

  • A second booster dose is recommended for people aged 50 years and older and may also apply to a very small number of women who are pregnant and over 50 years.
  • Pregnant women and adolescents aged 16 years and older with a medical condition/disability that puts them at greater risk of severe COVID-19 should also receive the second booster dose.

Second booster optional:

  • People aged 30-49 years, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, may receive a second booster dose at any stage of pregnancy.
  • While there are no safety concerns, the benefit for people in this age group is less certain because the risk of severe disease in women who have received three doses of vaccine appears very low.

Second booster not recommended:

  • Pregnant women with no other medical conditions/disability below 30 years of age are not currently recommended to receive a second booster dose based on the low likelihood of severe disease.

COVID at Home visiting service

We encourage GPs to refer to the COVID@Home Service which provides an ‘in-home’ assessment service delivered by a Registered Nurse with the support of a GP.

This service is for COVID positive patients whose regular GP is not able to undertake home visits but where such a visit is required for medical and other support reasons while the patient is isolating. Referrals will only be accepted from GPs. Find out more about the service and how to refer. If you have any enquiries, contact coronavirus@cesphn.com.au.

Free infection control advice on Zoom

We are offering specialised one-on-one Zoom consultations with an experienced primary care infection control educator to assist with infection control procedures.

GPs should consider facilitating either telehealth or in person consultation for patients with respiratory symptoms. When in person consultation is indicated, the patient should be given a surgical mask and hand sanitiser and practice staff should wear eye protection and a mask.

To book a session, email coronavirus@cesphn.com.au with the subject line: “Yes I would like infection control advice”.

CESPHN Vax at Home Service

The CESPHN Vax at Home Service is for those people who are housebound and not able to leave their house to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or booster. The service will accept referrals for people 16 years and over. Referrals will be accepted from GPs and from Local Health Districts. Patient self-referrals will not be accepted.

All referrals must be sent through this Vax at Home Service Online Form. Please also indicate if an influenza vaccine is also required. Please note, a referral will need to be attached to the online form. For further information on the program, please contact us.

Ordering process for PPE

Access to PPE is now via Living with COVID PPE Bundles ordered nationally through PHNs using an online order form and delivered directly by a national distributor (rather than via PHNs). Access to PPE from the National Medical Stockpile is dependent on eligibility, and PPE volumes will be monitored by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

General Practice, ACCHS and GPRCs ordering information

Living with COVID PPE Bundles are available for:

  • GPs, ACCHS and GPRCs willing to manage COVID positive patients face-to-face, until 30 September 2022.
  • ACCHSs and rural and remote GPs willing to treat COVID positive patients virtually and respiratory patients face-to-face, where workforce capacity is limited AND the GP is serving the community for most of all health needs, until 30 September 2022.
  • GPs and GPRCs willing to support COVID positive people virtually, and respiratory patients face to face, until 30 September 2022.

Orders can only be placed once per month and be submitted to the PHN via the online form.

Please read the guidance document before placing your first order:

GP, ACCHS and GPRC: Completing New PPE Order Form Guide

GP, ACCHA and GPRC online ordering form

PPE for the health workforce during COVID-19

PPE for COVID-19 includes surgical masks, particulate filter respirators (such as P2 or N95), gloves, goggles, glasses, face shields, gowns and aprons. For more information go to COVID PPE Information for Health Professionals.

Accessing pulse oximeters for your patients

Individual patients – we have access to a small supply of oximeters. GPs with patients they believe require a pulse oximeter urgently are asked to complete this CESPHN Pulse Oximeter online form with the patients details and we will arrange delivery of an oximeter.

General practices – practices actively seeing moderate risk COVID positive patients can also be sent up to 10 pulse oximeters per practice via the new PPE online ordering form. If your practice has already received 10 pulse oximeters via the previous process, you will need to access future stock through your local suppliers.

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