With international borders gradually reopening from November 2021 and greater population movement, a resurgence of influenza activity in Australia is expected d (potentially outside of the usual influenza season)
Influenza epidemiology in the coming months may be atypical and clinicians should be alert to the possibility of influenza in patients presenting with respiratory symptoms (who don’t have COVID-19).
Influenza vaccines can be co-administered with the COVID-19 vaccines.
Lower influenza vaccine coverage rates in 2021 and lower influenza virus circulation in 2020–2021 increase the risk of complications from influenza in children.
2022 formulation of influenza vaccine will likely become available from March or April 2022.
TGA provisionally approves Pfizer for 5 to 11 year-olds
The TGA has now provisionally approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as a safe and effective vaccine for 5 to 11 year-olds. The first shipment of the Pfizer paediatric vaccines is due to arrive in Australia by early January 2022 and will undergo the same rigorous batch testing processes in the TGA laboratories as other batches of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Australian Government will start rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to 5 to 11-year-olds from 10 January 2022 subject to ATAGI recommendations and other related approvals. The Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds will be distributed to vaccine providers in different packaging to the vaccine approved for people 12 and over, and will be clearly differentiated by being dispensed from orange-capped vials instead of grey or purple capped vials. Read full Media release.
Omicron variant and COVID-19 booster doses
On Friday 3 December, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation released a statement noting the emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, named Omicron. At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that earlier booster doses of current COVID-19 vaccines will augment protection against the Omicron variant. Read full ATAGI statement.
COVID-19 booster dose intervals
A booster dose is available to anyone in Australia aged 18 years and over who has completed their primary course of vaccination at least six-months ago. The ATAGI has advised that in special circumstances, the six-month interval may be shortened to five months when needed for logistical reasons, for example:
for patients with a greater risk of severe COVID-19 in outbreak settings;
if an individual is travelling overseas and will be away when their booster dose is due; or
in outreach vaccination programs where access is limited.
Providers should use their clinical judgement to determine whether it is appropriate to administer the dose early. It should be noted that there are very limited data on benefit for boosters given prior to 20 weeks after completion of the primary course, and the duration of protection following boosters is not yet known. See full ATAGI clinical guidance on COVID-19 vaccines.
New COVID-19 vaccine decision aid
A COVID-19 decision aid has been developed to help people make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The tool provides evidence-based information about both the disease and the vaccines and, through five simple steps, helps people weigh up the risks and benefits of vaccination for them and their family. Healthcare providers can use this tool during consultations with patients to support discussions about COVID-19 vaccination.
COVID-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme
The Australian Government is reducing the claim threshold of the no fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme. The scheme will now cover the costs of injuries above $1,000 due to a proven adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccination and will be backdated to February 2021. See policy on the new COVID-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme which sets out the rules that govern the scheme. More information available on the Department of Health website.
This updated resource includes key COVID-19 vaccine information for children, teens and parents/guardians. It includes updated information about the provisional approval of Comirnaty Paediatric (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds by the TGA on 5 December 2021. It is expected a vaccination program for 5 to 11 year olds will commence in from 10 January 2022, subject to ATAGI advice.
NCIRS Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2020
The NCIRS Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2020 examines Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) data for children, adolescents and adults. This is the first NCIRS annual report to present whole-of-life data from AIR, with adolescent and adult data included for the first time.
‘Fully vaccinated’ coverage increased at all three age milestones in all children between 2019 and 2020.
HPV vaccination coverage in adolescents continued to increase, impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was seen on course completion rates.
Influenza vaccination coverage in adults improved.
Zoster vaccination coverage among older adults remained relatively low.
NEW: Nursing Australia Week – Podcasts
Nursing Australia Week 2021 aimed to provide nurses some respite from the intensity of their professional duties as the COVID pandemic continued. The podcasts recorded over the week aim to give nurses enjoyable, informative and easy-to-access updates on COVID-19 and nursing. Listen here
Easy Read resources for people with intellectual disability
The Department of Health has also published an Easy Read Consent Form for use with people with intellectual disability.
Final COVID-19 live stream update for GPs for 2021!
Join the latest COVID-19 vaccine live stream update for GPs. The panel will provide latest key updates and answer participants’ questions live about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Get involved by submitting questions and comments!
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