Apr 12, 2023

Aged care residents urged to vaccinate ahead of winter COVID-19 wave

Aged care residents urged to vaccinate ahead of winter COVID-19 wave

Despite COVID-19 dropping off the public radar, there are concerns that a rising number of aged care cases means another winter peak is visible on the horizon.

COVID-19 has been on a downward trend recently with the recent fourth Omicron wave resulting in fewer hospital admissions, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths.

However, the dip in cases already appears over and the Government is again warning the public that high levels of transmission are likely as COVID-19 strains continue to diversify with vulnerable people and people in aged care among those most likely to be impacted.

There are more than 1500 COVID-19 cases in residential aged care, a rise of more than 65% from early March, with 234 homes across Australia affected by outbreaks. 

20 resident deaths were also recorded in the most recent weekly reporting period.

With no public restrictions in place and uncertainty about the combined impact of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this winter, older people are being urged to keep up to date with vaccinations.

Vaccinations continue to be seen as the best form of protection against COVID-19.

“More than one million Australians have already received their 2023 COVID-19 booster dose and around 7 in 10 of those boosters have gone to people aged 60 and over,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler.

“If it has been six months since your last COVID vaccine or infection, you can now top up your protection with the latest vaccine.” 

“If you’re newly eligible for the oral antiviral Paxlovid, I encourage you to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner and develop a plan for if you test positive.” 

As part of the expanded accessibility to antiviral medication, 56,000 of 70,000 prescriptions dispensed went to residential aged care homes in the summer Omicron wave.

The Government has also acknowledged Australia’s ‘hybrid’ immunity, where the combination of high rates of vaccination and widespread natural exposure are working together to better protect the public from infection.

It’s believed that Australia’s population immunity sits at a near-perfect 99.6%

Despite that, the Department of Health and Aged Care and Primary Health Networks are continuing to implement the 2023 booster rollout, focusing on homes that were early adopters of the fourth dose.

Roughly 12% of the estimated eligible aged care population have received their 2023 booster dose, while almost one-third of aged care residents are not eligible for a booster dose as they have already had a vaccine dose or infection within the last six months. 

And it’s aged care residents who are likely to buck the trend with infection – and potentially reinfection – as people living together have higher transmission rates than the general population. 

Aged care workers to benefit from leave grants

As aged care staff cases are on the rise, any permanent or casual aged care workers can access new Aged Care Worker COVID-19 leave grants

When a worker’s required to take leave due to COVID-19 – and has no leave entitlements available – they can receive a payment of up to $750 directly from their employer. 

Government-funded residential aged care providers and approved home care package providers can apply for reimbursement for payments made from April 1 every three months through the Department of Health and Aged Care. 

The payment effectively replaced the High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment, a support payment for those who couldn’t earn income in a high-risk setting due to a positive COVID-19 result.

It ended on March 31, although claims can be accepted until April 14.

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