Push to educate CALD patients on available COVID treatments

Morgan Liotta

16/08/2022 2:49:03 PM

While vaccination rates are rising among CALD populations, GPs should also focus on improving antiviral uptake for those eligible, an expert says.

CALD woman in telehealth consult
GPs can help to reduce the difference in COVID-19 death rates for people born overseas by improving the uptake of antivirals in eligible CALD patients.

Health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people living in Australia varies, but one stark contrast is the recent news that people born overseas are significantly more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were born in Australia.
Dr Kate Walker, GP and CALD Communities COVID-19 Health Advisory Group member believes there is now a ‘big opportunity’ to reduce the difference in death rates for patients born overseas – by improving access to and uptake of COVID-19 antivirals.
‘Access to oral antivirals for CALD people is the most important thing GPs need to promote,’ Dr Walker told newsGP.
‘GPs have a key part to improve uptake in eligible CALD patients. 
‘[After] ideally discussing a COVID-positive plan for if patients develop symptoms, including how to test and what to do if they test positive, identifying eligible patients for antivirals should happen.’
Despite the ‘shocking’ statistics of COVID-related deaths among CALD populations, some more positive data has emerged.
The latest figures on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rates show the percentage of CALD people aged over 16 who are vaccinated is now not far behind Australian-born people. Of eligible people born overseas, 72.3% have received three or more doses, as have 68.3% of those who speak a language other than English at home, compared to 71.3% of the general population.
However, there are new concerns that patients are experiencing difficulty accessing COVID oral antiviral treatments, particularly vulnerable populations, with uptake varying widely across jurisdictions as many people remain unaware of their eligibility.
Dr Walker says there is still much work needed to promote up-to-date vaccinations, testing and uptake of antiviral treatments, but is concerned the message around antivirals is not being communicated effectively to some CALD communities who may not be accessing mainstream media.
‘While I have no information about rates of accessing antivirals so far in CALD communities, [I do have] anecdotal reports of patients presenting too late for access,’ she said.
‘GPs need to talk through a COVID-positive plan for patients who are eligible for antiviral treatments before they are infected.
‘This should include how and when to test, and to ring their practice ASAP if they are positive. There should be provision for on-the-day telehealth appointments for COVID-positive patients who are eligible for antivirals.’
The Department of Health and Ageing (DoH) did not respond to a request for figures related to antiviral uptake among CALD populations.
However, according to Dr Walker, the data showing that people born overseas have increased death rates from COVID-19 can be used as a starting point to promote the safety of antivirals and encourage their use among these populations.
‘We [also] need to ensure patients continue to test for COVID if they have symptoms,’ she said.
‘GPs need to advocate that patients continue to have access to rapid antigen tests and PCRs, particularly if they are eligible for oral treatments.
‘Delayed diagnosis of COVID may impact their eligibility for treatment.’ 
Dr Walker advises GPs to be aware that in some CALD communities there is stigma associated with the term ‘antivirals’ suggests the use of the term ‘oral COVID-19 treatments’.
In recognition of this, the DoH is also ‘moving away’ from the term ‘antiviral’.
Associated stigma, as well as a lack of knowledge of availability and eligibility for antivirals, are among many potential barriers to accessing the treatments for CALD patients, Dr Walker said.
These may include:

  • financial barriers and accessibility to booking GP appointments
  • language barriers when making appointments within the required time of testing positive
  • knowledge about when to test
  • access to rapid antigen tests and when and where to do a PCR.
‘There may also be language barriers to understanding consultations over telehealth, and when having extended consultations,’ Dr Walker, who encourages using an interpreter where possible, said.
‘Bilingual GPs have the advantage of using other languages in their consultations while others have needed to work with interpreters.’ 
The DoH has developed translated versions of a fact sheet and video providing information about the use of oral treatments for people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and will continue to update COVID-19 resources with translated information when available, including in low literacy formats.
A number of translated resources to promote the safety of oral COVID-19 treatments have already been released across most states and territories, including Western Australia and Victoria.
Having been integral to increasing vaccination and booster rates among CALD communities, Dr Walker said GPs should already have a head start towards a goal of increasing awareness and uptake of the oral treatments.
As of 15 August, there have been 62,867,867 COVID vaccine doses administered nationally, with the majority administered in general practice.
‘GPs have played a big part in getting vaccines rates high amongst CALD communities,’ she said.
‘We are trusted and accessible healthcare providers – which is particularly important in a time of great uncertainty and fear.
‘GPs have taken the time to discuss patient concerns about getting vaccinated and motivated their patients to get vaccinated and stay up to date.’
Log in below to join the conversation.

antivirals CALD COVID-19 culturally and linguistically diverse

newsGP weekly poll What area of medicine do you find most difficult to stay across the changing clinical evidence?

newsGP weekly poll What area of medicine do you find most difficult to stay across the changing clinical evidence?



Login to comment