CANBERRA, AAP – Aged care peak bodies have welcomed the possibility of residents receiving a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as their flu jab.
Ahead of a potential winter surge in COVID-19 cases, combined with flu season, the federal government is looking at whether to administer both vaccines to those in residential aged care at the same time.
The federal health department has been consulting with aged care groups on the proposal, but the measure would need to be signed off by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation before it goes ahead.
The chief executive of peak body Leading Age Services Australia, Sean Rooney, said the group had been consulted on the proposal and a uniform approach was needed.
“Residents in aged care homes are vulnerable to COVID-19 and to influenza. A coordinated plan would offer the best protection for them,” Mr Rooney told AAP.
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“Any plan will need to be nationally coordinated and communicated in advance to providers, residents and home and community care clients ahead of delivery.”
Mr Rooney said the peak body had been calling for a national approach to future vaccinations in aged care since mid-January.
Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck confirmed to AAP assessments were being carried out to see if the fourth COVID-19 shot and flu vaccine could be delivered to aged care residents.
“We are assessing current influenza vaccination systems and how a booster program might align with that as part of the winter plan,” he said.
“It is the next step in protecting the lives of senior Australians, particularly those in residential aged care, as we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic.”
A federal health department spokeswoman told AAP that ATAGI was constantly examining vaccine data.
“ATAGI continues to monitor evidence emerging from medical research on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines both locally and internationally,” the spokeswoman said.
“ATAGI will update its advice and recommendations accordingly.”
While flu outbreaks have been minimal in the past two years due to pandemic restrictions and lockdowns, health officials have warned this year’s winter will likely include a flu season.
The latest vaccination figures have shown more than 63 per cent of the eligible population have received their booster shot.
The rollout for children aged between five and 11-years-old has also passed 50 per cent for first doses.
Meanwhile, a prescription-only COVID-19 treatment will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from Tuesday.
The oral anti-viral medicine Lagevrio will be available on the PBS for people at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.
The treatment has been used to reduce the risk of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms being admitted to hospital.
On Tuesday, there were nine COVID-19 deaths in NSW and 18 in Victoria.
There were a further 6879 new cases in Victoria and 8874 in NSW.