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COVID-19: Latest news for general practices

While first published in January 2020, this page is continually being added to and updated.

Novel coronavirus is an evolving international health concern. We are publishing regular updates on this page, but encourage health professionals to also view the Coronavirus for health professionals section of our website.

COVID-19 Statistics for our region

6 May Update

Mandatory Masks in Indoor Settings

As of 12pm Thursday 6 May it is mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public areas in the Greater Sydney area. We recommend you implement this as necessary in your practice. Residential aged care facilities have visitor limits of two, and are also enforcing mandatory mask wearing. 

Webinar: Responding to Vaccine Hesitancy

The NSW ACT PHN Network is presenting a free webinar on Wednesday 12 May 2021 7:00pm – 8:30pm to assist health professionals in responding to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Get the latest updates and information to better communicate with your patients. Enrol for the webinar online.

4 May Update

Pfizer Vaccinations for GPs Under 50

Pfizer vaccinations are now available for GPs and practice staff in our region for those under 50 years of age, at the NBMLHD Vaccination Hub in Penrith. 

The Penrith Hub will also vaccinate members of the public under 50 years of age who have specific underlying medical conditions, with a referral from their GP.

For further details on how to book, visit the COVID-19 Referrals page on HeathPathways under the 'Vaccination' tab. Should you have any further queries contact Jodie Abbey via email.

Vaccinations for Over 50s at GPRCs

As part of the recalibrated Vaccination Roll-out Plan, AstraZeneca vaccinations for people over 50 are available from GP-led Respiratory Clinics (GPRCs) starting this week, 3 May. These clinics will continue to provide testing services alongside vaccinations.

Over 50s Vaccination in General Practice

AstraZeneca vaccinations for over 50s will be available from participating GPs starting 17 May as part of the Phase 1b roll-out in general practice.

Second Dose Timing After COVID Infection

HealthPathways have updated their COVID-19 Vaccination Procedure pathway to reflect information regarding the timing of a second vaccine dose if a COVID-19 infection develops between dose 1 and dose 2. For AstraZeneca the second dose should be a minimum of 12 weeks after recovery from acute illness, and for Pfizer it should be a minimum of eight weeks. 

Revaccination After Dose Interruption

If there has been an interruption during the vaccination process (i.e. disconnection of needle and syringe) where most of the dose has not been given, it is advised that you revaccinate with the whole dose. There is no need to revaccinate if most of the dose has been given. Further information is available on the COVID-19 Vaccination Procedure pathway.

COVID-19 Side Effects Webinar

On Tuesday 5 May at 7:00pm, the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases will host a free webinar covering what we know so far about the rare side-effects associated with COVID-19 vaccines, including Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome.

Vaccination Resources for Patients

The Department of Health has recently added these patient vaccination resources to assist in decision-making around their vaccination:

30 April Update

Update to Vaccine Excess Dose Policy

The Department of Health have updated the Vaccine Dose Policy in line with current medical advice recommending Pfizer as the preferred vaccine for patients under 50. This update includes changes to the excess dose policy, which can be found on page two of the updated policy document

Billing of MBS Vaccination Numbers

All MBS COVID-19 vaccine numbers, including the Suitability Assessment Service numbers, can only be accessed by those practices participating in the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. General practices that are not participating in the Australian Government Vaccination Delivery Program cannot bill to MBS COVID-19 vaccination numbers. This includes consultations that involve discussing a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g. discussing individual suitability or risk/benefit). Further information can be found on the MBS item notes page on the Department of Health website.

Testing for Immunity After Vaccination

Public health authorities have reported that they have been receiving results of COVID-19 serology for vaccinated patients that have been ordered by GPs. Testing for serological markers of immunity (anti-spike antibodies or neutralising antibodies) to COVID-19 is not recommended. An immune correlate of protection has not yet been established for SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans. Therefore, serology is not useful in determining whether a vaccinated individual is protected against COVID-19. 

29 April Update

Vaccinations for RACF Workforce

Residential aged care facility (RACF) workers, including GPs, over 50 can access an AstraZeneca vaccine by visiting a GP clinic, GP-led Respiratory Clinic or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service. Workers can book directly through the eligibility checker. Our Hazelbrook and Penrith GP-led Respiratory Clinics currently have capacity to take bookings for AstraZeneca vaccinations. 

For RACF workers under 50, the Pfizer vaccine will be made available from 3 May. Information on how to book a Pfizer vaccination for this cohort will be sent directly to RACFs and GPs who work in RACFs today. 

When we receive information about the availability of the Pfizer vaccine for GPs and practice staff under 50, not working in RACFs, we will notify you.

Latest ATAGI Advice on AstraZeneca

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) have released a statement on 23 April reiterating their recommendations on AstraZeneca vaccine safety.

ATAGI Advice on AstraZeneca Second Dose

ATAGI continues to recommend that people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine without serious adverse events can be given a second dose. Current data suggests that the risk of TTS following a second dose is considerably lower than with a first dose (with one case reported from more than 2 million second doses given in the UK to 14 April 2021). There are currently no studies of the effectiveness of mixed schedules of different vaccine types. ATAGI will continue to review evidence on this issue.

Vaccine Resources for Patients

The Department of Health has made a webpage for consumers which details the vaccines approved for use in Australia. This resource answers common questions patients might have about the vaccine they are receiving and which vaccine will be administered based on availability and clinical guidance. The Department have also released updated information for patients about when they will receive their vaccine, based on the recent recalibration of the vaccine roll-out strategy. 

23 April Update

Vaccination Strategy Update

The National Cabinet met on 22 April to recalibrate the current national vaccination roll-out strategy. The following key changes have been advised:

  • Pfizer vaccine for those under 50 years (with a few agreed exceptions) – until general availability later in the year as supply increases
  • Ensure access to state and territory Pfizer Clinics to under 50s eligible through Phase 1a and 1b
  • Progressive geographical expansion of state Pfizer Clinics to ensure distribution to these cohorts
  • AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 50 years and over
  • Potential to provide additional AstraZeneca doses to primary care sites (some state and territory AstraZeneca clinics will reduce scope and size)
  • Optimise AstraZeneca utilisation by bringing forward access to all people 50 and over from 17 May 2021
We will communicate any further information regarding the next steps in the vaccination roll-out as soon as it is made available to us.

Vaccine Roll-Out Update

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that over 900,000 vaccine doses have been delivered by primary health nationally

21 April Update

AstraZeneca Advice Updated in HealthPathways

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated their advice regarding vaccination for patients with a confirmed medical history of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), and/or heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). Due to reports of a rare side effect involving thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine is now being recommended for patients with a history of CVST and HIT. AstraZeneca may still be administered to patients in these risk groups if the patient has given informed consent based on an understanding of the benefits and risks. If you're unsure about what vaccine to use for your patients, you can phone NSWISS for further advice. HealthPathways has updated their COVID-19 Vaccination History of CVST Procedure Pathway to reflect the latest guidance.

Vaccine Roll-Out Update

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that over 855,600 vaccine doses have been delivered by primary health nationally, in comparison to 678,960 delivered by state and territory clinics. This demonstrates the key role of general practice in the successful roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination program. 

Booking a Vaccination in Our Region

In our region we now have 78 practices, three GP-led Respiratory Clinics, and one Aboriginal health service providing 82 locations where residents can access the COVID-19 vaccine. Our Hazelbrook and Penrith GP-led Respiratory Clinics currently have capacity to take more bookings for COVID-19 vaccination. If you are a non-vaccinating practice, or a vaccinating practice with a long waiting list for vaccination, consider referring patients to these clinics. Vaccination appointments can be made via the Eligibility Checker.

Vaccination Strategy Update

The National Cabinet met on 19 April to discuss the national vaccination strategy. They reinforced the key role that general practice play in the roll-out of vaccinations for Australians 50 years of age and older. Currently practices are still vaccinating those eligible under 1b. National cabinet will meet again tomorrow to discuss the option of bringing forward vaccinations for priority group 2a. 

New Patient Resources

The Department of Health has recently added these patient vaccine resources:

15 April Update

AstraZeneca Clotting Information Update

Vaccine Rollout Update

We are awaiting confirmation of revisions to the roll-out plan originally supplied by the Australian Government given the recent changes surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine. We ask you to remain patient, we will communicate any information regarding the next steps as soon as it is made available to us.

Check AIR Before Vaccinating Patients

Vaccination providers should check Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) BEFORE administering any vaccines to a patient. There have been instances (nationally) where patients have provided incorrect information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, that have only been picked up after vaccination when AIR was accessed. This is particularly important now that flu vaccines have commenced as all vaccination providers must take into account the time needed between COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

There are three ways to access AIR:

  1. Clinical software integrated with AIR
  2. Clinician Vaccine Integrated Platform (CVIP) free app or
  3. Health Professional Online Services (HPOS)

Updated AstraZeneca Clinical Resources

A number of clinical documents were recently updated:

Updated AstraZeneca Patient Resources

A number of documents for patients from the Department of Health were recently updated:

Vaccination Appointments available at GP-led Respiratory Clinics

Our Hazelbrook and Penrith GP-led Respiratory Clinics currently have capacity to take more bookings for COVID-19 vaccination. If you are a non-vaccinating practice, or a vaccinating practice with a long waiting list for vaccination, consider referring patients to these clinics for vaccination. COVID-19 vaccination is free for everyone and all appointments will be bulk billed. Appointments can be make via the Eligibility Checker.

DHAS Seeking GPs for Local Support

The Doctors' Health Advisory Service (DHAS) is seeking GPs and psychologists in our region to offer treatment and support to colleagues who have been emotionally impacted by the recent flooding and stressors involved in the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out. If you are interested and/or willing to be available to DHAS, please read the attached letter and contact DHAS directly to register your availability.

COVID-19 Testing During the Winter

As winter approaches practices may see an increase in respiratory illness presentations. Practices are encouraged to continue to take the necessary COVID-19 precautions, including using telehealth were appropriate or referring patients for COVID-19 testing. Testing is available through our GP-led Respiratory Clinics in Hazelbrook, Penrith and Windsor and through Local Health District testing clinics. Please note the Penrith Paceway testing clinic will cease operation on 20 April. Testing information is available on our website.

9 April Update

URGENT AstraZeneca Vaccination Update

The Department of Health advised at 1:30pm today that GP Respiratory Clinics and general practices are to follow the advice provided last night by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and continue with the vaccination program. We understand that media reports indicated NSW Health had suspended their delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine today while they were updating their consent forms. NSW Health has now recommenced vaccination in their clinics.

ATAGI AstraZeneca Safety Advice

ATAGI has released a statement in response to the recent safety concerns regarding the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally the Department of Health Secretary and Chief Medical Officer have released a joint statement in response to the clinical advice provided by the ATAGI report. 

ATAGI AstraZeneca Clinical Guidance

ATAGI has updated their clinical guidance document to include information regarding updated date on the AstraZeneca vaccine, and changes in vaccine precautions for people with a history of allergies.

Vaccine FAQ Document

ATAGI has recently updated their consent frequently asked questions document which provides guidance for immunisation providers for gaining consent to COVID-19 vaccination, and answers to some frequently asked clinical questions your patients may ask you regarding vaccines and vaccination. 

 

25 March Update

Call for Immunisation Nurses for COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Can you help in a COVID-19 vaccination rollout? 

We are seeking registered nurses willing to assist in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. These nurses will be contacted if general practices in our region are seeking additional nursing workforce to assist with immunizing patients in the community. 

What is involved?

  • Confirm eligibility of patients for vaccination

  • Administration or assisting with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines

  • Ensure all work is carried out in accordance with legislative, industrial and organisational policy requirements and standards in the areas of Work Health and Safety

  • Monitoring of cold chain and storage of vaccines and to report and manage any detected breach of cold chain

  • Maintain immunisation records, vaccine supplies and consumables

  • Ensure that all necessary precautions are taken to avoid any incidents or wastage 

  • Undertake mandatory online training, to equip with the skills needed to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

I am interested, what next?

  1. Email us with your CV to to express your interest.

  2. You will receive a link to COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory Training Course

  3. In the event of a nurse shortage, you may be contacted to fill shifts at one or more general practices in the region

  4. Nurses will be employed directly by the general practice/s on a casual basis. 

  5. A local orientation, along with further instructions will be provided on site. 

Vaccination Contraindications

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended vaccinations be suspended in patients with a confirmed medical history of Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis; and/or heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). COVID-19 vaccination continues to be recommended in people with a history of clotting disorders.

Temporary Telehealth MBS Extended

The Australian Government have announced that it will extend support for telehealth services and care until Wednesday 30 June 2021. Extension of the temporary telehealth items, which were due to expire on Wednesday 31 March will make up an additional $1.1 billion in spending on Australia’s national COVID-19 health response and suppression strategy.

Vaccinations at Hazelbrook Clinic

The Hazelbrook GP-led Respiratory Clinic will commence COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday 29 March. The clinic will operate Monday-Friday with:
  • Vaccinations available each morning 8:30am-12:30pm bookings via eligibility checker
  • Testing available each afternoon 1:30-5:30pm bookings via HotDoc

Vaccination for Cancer Patients

Cancer Australia has compiled a number of resources in conjunction with the Department of Health regarding COVID-19 vaccination in patients affected by cancer, including a FAQ document for patients, as well as clinical information for health professionals.

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