Government launches flu and COVID vaccine campaign

Jolyon Attwooll

22/06/2022 4:47:09 PM

At-risk patients have also been encouraged to talk to GPs about oral antiviral treatments if they are infected with COVID-19.

Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler
Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said $11 million will be spent on the six-week campaign. (Image: AAP)

The Federal Government has launched a communications campaign for COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations, as well as highlighting the availability of oral antiviral treatments.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, said $11 million will be spent on a six-week campaign to encourage people to get up to date with both COVID-19 vaccinations and influenza inoculations.
He noted a rising number of people seeking treatment for respiratory illness in both primary and tertiary care.
Among the targets of the campaign are an estimated six million people who are currently eligible for a further COVID-19 booster dose, the Minister said.
He also reiterated that the Government is urging residential aged care facilities to improve the uptake of extra so-called ‘winter’ doses.
Only 54% of aged care residents are currently recorded as having had four or more doses, he said.
The campaign will include messaging aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, where there is a significant gap between those who have had their second and third doses, while uptake among children is also being pushed, with the campaign emphasising the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines.
Fewer than 40% of children aged 5–11 have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine according to figures published on 22 June.
The Minister said the campaign will draw attention to the availability of the two oral antiviral COVID-19 treatments – nirmatrelvir in combination with ritanovir (sold as Paxlovid) and molnupiravir (sold as Lagevrio) – which are available on the PBS.
Both are designed to protect the most vulnerable from developing severe COVID-19.
‘People are encouraged to talk to their GP about the right treatment for their health needs,’ Minister Butler’s announcement states.
The Government underlined the ‘critical’ importance of starting the treatments swiftly after noticing symptoms to allow treatments to prevent hospitalisations.
‘COVID-19 can move from mild to severe illness very quickly,’ the release states. ‘It’s vital to start the five-day antiviral treatment course when symptoms first appear.’
Noting the surge in flu cases, and respiratory illnesses in general, Minister Butler said there is growing evidence of an increased reinfection rate among people who have already tested positive to COVID-19.
He attributed the rise to the increased transmissibility of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
‘It is vital all eligible people keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and, if they haven’t already done so, have their annual flu jab as soon as possible,’ the announcement from the Minister’s office states.
It also said the campaign materials will be translated for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences.
Who is eligible for oral antivirals in Australia?
According to PBS criteria, the drugs can be prescribed for those with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 confirmed by a PCR or rapid antigen test within five days of symptom onset, among the following patient groups: 

  • Those aged 65 or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease
  • Those aged 75 or older with one other risk factor
  • Those aged 50 and older who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin with two further risk factors for severe disease
  • Those with moderate-to-severe immunocompromise
The RACGP’s COVID-19 resources includes information relevant for every state and territory.
A guide with details relevant to general practice about the COVID-19 oral antivirals has also been published by newsGP.
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