Short EOI window for paediatric COVID shots

Matt Woodley

26/07/2022 8:08:15 PM

Expressions of interest for the six-month to four-year-old cohort are now being accepted, but general practices only have until Friday to nominate.

Moderna vials for children aged six months to four years is differentiated from other vaccines by their blue cap. (Image: AAP)
Moderna vials for children aged six months to four years is differentiated from other vaccines by their blue cap. (Image: AAP)

The Department of Health (DoH) is inviting general practices to indicate their interest in administering the Moderna vaccine for children aged six months to four years.
The expression of interest (EOI) process opened on Tuesday 26 July and will close at 5 pm (AEST) on Friday 29 July.
According to a DoH information sheet sent out to general practices and seen by newsGP, Primary Health Networks (PHNs) will coordinate this process within their regions.
Interested general practices have been asked to provide their expected level of demand, and also confirm that they meet the site requirements for this vaccine, which are similar to those needed for the administration of Moderna doses for children aged 6–11.
It is not clear why the EOI is limited to children up to four years old, as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted a provisional determination notice for the use of the vaccine for children aged six months to less than six years. However, five-year-olds are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
MBS rebates for delivering these vaccines will remain the same as for the administration of other primary course doses, despite the anticipated additional level of complexity associated with administering vaccines to young children.
As with other COVID vaccinations, accredited general practices enrolled in the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) will also receive a $10 payment per eligible child that receives both doses and an MBS COVID-19 vaccine suitability assessment service at the same practice.
While practices are being asked to express their interest in participating, the DoH has indicated the number of selected primary care sites will be limited in comparison to the wider rollout.
‘It is anticipated that the state and territory governments will … act as the main pathway for vaccination in this cohort,’ the DoH information sheet states.
‘Primary care will play an important role in supporting this delivery model to provide an alternative vaccination pathway.
‘The initial stage of the six month to four year program … may be a relatively small and selected cohort requiring a small number of selected vaccination sites. It may not be possible for all interested practices to be selected to administer the Moderna vaccine in the early stages.’
It also states that practices are unlikely to receive an ongoing allocation of the vaccine, and that further advice on ordering windows will only be provided to selected practices once EOI responses have been received and reviewed.
While the TGA has provisionally approved the vaccine for use in this cohort, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has still not provided advice to the Federal Government on its administration and any potential start date has not been publicised.
Despite the uncertainty, the DoH anticipates that chosen practices will receive two orders of the vaccine, separated into first and second doses. Each vial will contain 10 doses.
The selection of practices will be prioritised based on:

  • Accreditation status (practices that are accredited and administer National Immunisation Program vaccines will be prioritised)
  • Location, as the DoH is seeking broad geographic coverage, including practices situated within areas of limited vaccine access
  • Access for priority population groups, such as practices that currently service, or are willing to actively support at-risk populations, particularly children with immunocompromise, comorbidities and/or disability
Practices chosen to administer the vaccine will be required to complete an additional training module, which will not be available to participants until they have completed the core modules and Module 3 (Moderna).
Prior to receiving doses, sites will also be required to complete the Moderna (blue cap) Site Readiness Declaration in the COVID-19 Vaccine Administrative System (CVAS).
It is also a mandatory program requirement that all practices participating in the rollout are listed on the Vaccine Clinic Finder (VCF). Sites will be required to use VCF Connect to add the new Moderna service and include clinic opening times to their practice profile.
Prior to receiving doses, practices must confirm that they have either sufficient low temperature freezer (-50˚C to -15˚C) storage capacity or refrigerator (2–8˚C) storage capacity, in line with the projected and actual volumes of the Moderna 0–4 years vaccine to be administered.
Practices must also have a documented procedure in place for managing and recording training of staff handling vaccine doses, to ensure that vaccines are handled in a ‘safe and lawful manner’. This includes training relating to safe removal of vials from low temperature shippers, freezers and refrigerators, and compliance with any safety data sheets that have been provided to the site.
Other requirements include the need for:
  • appropriate safety procedures and controls, including safety equipment (PPE)
  • procedures in relation to any spillage/breakage of vials and other accidents.
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