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Immunisation weekly update – 6 July 2022

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Free flu shots extended to 17 July

On 30 June, NSW Health announced that free flu shots for NSW residents will be extended until 17 July amid concerns vaccination rates are still not where they should be. The NSW Health Minister has urged families to use the school holidays to book in for a free flu shot for children as well as adults.

Diphtheria cases in NSW

On 2 July a case of diphtheria was confirmed in a two year old child in Northern NSW – the first case of diphtheria of the throat in NSW in a century. A second case of diphtheria of the throat in a six year old child was confirmed on 3 July. Both children were not vaccinated against diphtheria.

Diphtheria is very rare in Australia however, the disease has very serious outcomes and can be fatal. Immunisation providers are encouraged to be alert and review children’s immunisation status.

The diphtheria vaccine is free for children on the NIP at six weeks, four months, six months, 18 months, four years, and at the beginning of high school. In adulthood, diphtheria vaccine is recommended for adults every 10 years and in pregnancy.

Communicating with people who are unvaccinated against COVID-19

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This brief NCIRS report summarises perspectives on COVID-19 vaccines of unvaccinated adults living in Australia who were interviewed in late 2021. Informed by these findings, the recommendations aim to improve communication between health authorities, immunisation providers, and unvaccinated individuals and their friends and families.

Recommendations for immunisation providers:

  1. Seek out training to build confidence and skills around having conversations with vaccine-hesitant people, e.g. the SKAI eLearning module
  2. Use the Benefits and Decision cards to help engage and encourage discussions, and tip sheet on how to start the conversation
  3. Use resources to support conversations: COVID-19 Decision AidVaccination glossary
  4. Make a positive recommendation to vaccinate
  5. Be ready to tailor conversations to a range of positions on vaccination, from refusing to hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines (including receiving a booster vaccine)

Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) Healthcare Providers Survey

NCIRS is currently evaluating two websites that provide information and resources to support better conversations about vaccination. The survey is focussed on routinely recommended vaccinations for pregnancy and early childhood. It does not focus on vaccinations for COVID-19.

Providers are encouraged to complete the survey to help NCIRS understand:

  • your vaccination communication needs
  • your interest in vaccination communication training
  • your impressions of the websites now
  • your ideas on how to improve the websites.

Current wave of infections in NSW driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5

COVID-19 transmission in the community remains high, according to the latest Respiratory Surveillance Report. It is expected BA.4 and BA.5 will become dominant in the coming weeks and are likely to be associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections including an increase in reinfections.

NSW Health is urging people to remain COVID-safe this winter by:

  • staying up to date with vaccinations – for both flu and COVID-19
  • practising good hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing a mask
  • taking a COVID-19 test straight away and self-isolating if unwell

Novavax as a booster

On 1 July, ATAGI updated their clinical guidance on use of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine as a booster dose. Although not preferred, Novavax can be used as a booster dose in people 18 years and older in the following circumstances:

  • people who have a contraindication to mRNA vaccines (including those who have had a serious adverse event following mRNA vaccines)
  • people who do not prefer an mRNA vaccine

See Commonly asked questions about booster doses.

Winter booster eligibility

At this time, healthy people aged 16 to 64 years who do not have a risk factor for severe COVID-19 are not recommended to receive a winter booster after their first booster. This infographic summarises who should get primary, booster and winter booster doses.

ATAGI recommends that the following people should receive a winter booster of COVID-19 vaccine:

  • adults aged 65 years and older
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 50 years and older
  • residents aged 16 years and older (aged care or disability care facilities)
  • people aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise as defined by ATAGI
  • people aged 16-64 years who have conditions that increase their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The second booster should be received four months after the first booster dose. For people who have been infected with COVID-19, the second booster dose should be delayed until three months after their infection.

Proposed changes to MenB vaccine recommendations

ATAGI is consulting with stakeholders on proposed changes to recommended use of meningococcal B vaccines in people at increased risk of meningococcal B disease.

The draft recommendations and the rationale for the changes are outlined the public consultation document available on the Department of Health and Aged Care website. Deadline for submission is 11.59PM on Sunday 17 July 2022.

Zostavax (shingles vaccine) supply issues

Zostavax remains restricted due to national supply shortages. To ensure ongoing supply to all immunisation providers, ordering quantities will be restricted from the NSW State Vaccine Centre until supply issues stabilise.

CESPHN ANI Scholarship for General Practice nurses

Central and Eastern Sydney PHN is offering registered nurses working in General Practice within the CESPHN region the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to complete studies to become a qualified authorised nurse immuniser (ANI) in NSW and administer vaccinations independent of a medical officer.

CESPHN are offering successful applicants 100% scholarship to this course (valued at $350). If you are interested in applying, ensure you meet eligibility criteria and apply here. Applications close 31 July 2022.

Upcoming immunisation webinars

Pneumococcal Disease 2022 webinar

  • Details: Wednesday 20 July | 6.00pm to 7.00pm AEST
  • Topic: the latest facts about pneumococcal disease, currently available vaccines, the NIP and the PneumoSmart Vaccination Tool created to assist GPs, practice nurses, and other Immunisation providers to comply with the Australian Immunisation Handbook recommendations
  • Register: webinar registration

Vaccine Acceptance in General Practice

  • Details: Wednesday 6 July | 7.00pm to 8.00pm AEST OR Thursday 7 July | 1:00pm to 2:00pm AEST
  • Topic: this webinar will take a case-based approach to address low vaccine confidence and provide strategies to identify and engage patients who refuse vaccines. Presented by A/Prof Holly Seale (Social Scientist) and Dr Damian Flanagan (GP)
  • Register:webinar registration
  • CPD: The 1 hour webinar is RACGP accredited for 2 CPD points

GP weekly webinar: booster doses and influenza vaccines

  • Details: Thursday 7 July 2022 | 11:30am AEST
  • Topic: primary care update on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout. The panel will provide key updates and answer participants’ questions. GPs and all health professionals are welcome.
  • Click link to join webinar

Immunisation news

Catch up on previous Immunisation Weekly Updates.