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New vaccine advice for aged care residents


Paul Hayes


28/05/2021 2:53:01 PM

People in aged care can now get a COVID vaccine within two weeks of a flu shot, following new advice from health authorities.

Professor Paul Kelly
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the shortened interval ‘will not have an impact on the effectiveness of the two vaccines’. (Image: AAP)

In an effort to get older Australians vaccinated as soon as possible, aged care residents no longer have to adhere to the recommended two-week interval between flu and COVID jabs. 
 
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly issued the new advice in a letter to practitioners on Thursday.
 
‘Given the evolving COVID-19 epidemiological situation in Victoria, it is my strong recommendation that residents and staff in residential aged care settings be vaccinated as quickly as possible against COVID-19,’ Professor Kelly wrote.
 
‘In order to do this, it will mean that there is a shortened interval of time placed between the administrations of the seasonal influenza and COVID-19 vaccine.
 
‘It is important to note that this will not have an impact on the effectiveness of the two vaccines, but rather ensure that our most vulnerable are protected at a time when COVID-19 is circulating more readily within the community.’
 
The new advice comes on the heels of revelations that dozens of residential aged care facilities (RACFs) across Victoria, which began a snap seven-day lockdown on Friday following a spate of community transmission, were yet to receive any vaccinations months into the Australia-wide rollout.

Overall, 74 RACFs across Australia had not received a single COVID vaccine as of Thursday 27 May.
 
Regarding the new advice, Professor Kelly said he asked the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and was advised the risk of aged care residents not waiting ‘outweighed the risk of shortening that interval’ given last year’s deadly COVID wave.
 
‘Those very few aged care facilities in Melbourne and Victoria that have not yet received one dose was mostly because they had the flu vaccine in the last couple of weeks and it was being delayed,’ Professor Kelly said.
 
‘I wrote to those facilities today to give my advice that should be changed for this specific event at this specific time.’
 
Professor Paul Effler, Senior Medical Advisor and Communicable Disease Control Directorate at the Western Australia Department of Health, recently said there is ‘no reason to believe’ that administering the vaccines within the two week window would ‘interfere’ with the safety or effectiveness of either vaccine.
 
‘The major issue is if there is an adverse event … we will know which vaccine caused it,’ he said.
 
Influenza has been at historically low levels in Australia, though health authorities say it remains essential for patients to receive their flu – and COVID – vaccinations.
 
‘We are dealing with the twin threats of influenza and COVID-19, for which two national vaccination programs will be rolling out at the same time – it’s a lot for our health system to manage, and it’s a lot for patients,’ RACGP President Dr Karen Price said.
 
‘[But] I have every confidence that general practice is up to the task. Vaccines are business as usual for GPs.’
 
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