Monday, 22 February marked a major milestone for WA Health, with the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine being administered to at-risk frontline workers. A hotel quarantine nurse was the first person in WA to get the vaccine. The Australian Government also commenced their COVID-19 vaccination program, with a focus on vaccinating residents and staff of aged care and disability services nationally and delivering on the plan to offer around 60,000 Pfizer vaccines to priority populations.
The vaccine rollout is based on the Australian Government’s national plan, prioritising people whose workplaces put them at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19, of passing it on, and those deemed most at risk of becoming seriously ill from the disease. It is anticipated that members of the public will have access to vaccination through GPs, respiratory clinics and Aboriginal Health Services from the middle of the year.
The second shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Australia this week.
166,000 doses were included in the second shipment, with another 120,000 doses expected to arrive as soon as next week.
For each of the next three weeks, 80,000 doses will be made available throughout the country – 50,000 to the states and territories and 30,000 to aged care through the Commonwealth.
Read the full statement, and interview with the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, click here.
More than 4,600 general practices have been assessed by the Australian Government Department of Health as eligible to participate in Phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Phase 1b is expected to commence from late March 2021, with all eligible general practices receiving vaccine stock within four weeks of Phase 1b commencement.
Given the short time frame for onboarding, The Department is not expecting eligible general practices to set up mass vaccination clinics.
More detailed communication from WA Primary Health Alliance will be going out to general practices this week.
Practices currently have many patients asking them ‘When will I receive my COVID-19 vaccine?’
COVID-19 vaccines will be available in phases. Groups of people get the vaccination at different times. The Australian Government Department of Health has created the online Vaccine Eligibility Checker tool to help patients figure out when they'll be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Australian Government Department of Health has developed resources to help your patients to make an informed decision about COVID-19 vaccination including:
To support vaccination providers with safe management and administration of COVID-19 vaccines, the Australian Government has partnered with the Australian College of Nursing to develop and deliver free and accredited online COVID-19 vaccination training modules.
The training is compulsory for GPs and other authorised COVID-19 vaccination providers and non-clinical modules are also available for practice staff in non-clinical aspects including handling, storage and administration.
To enrol in the course COVID-19 vaccination providers are required to have already undertaken required training specific to their profession and have the authority to administer vaccinations in their relevant state and territory.
All training content is delivered at no cost through an e-learning platform at covid19vaccinationtraining.org.au
From March 2021, 16 new MBS items will be available to enable GPs and suitably qualified health professionals to assess patients for their suitability to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The MBS COVID-19 vaccine suitability assessment service is free to Medicare-eligible patients and the MBS items must be bulk billed.
The MBS items are part of the Australian Government’s second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program (Phase 1B). The MBS COVID-19 Vaccine Suitability Assessment Service fact sheet can be found here.
Further information on MBS items for COVID-19 can be found at HealthPathways – COVID-19 MBS Items.
COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Surveillance information sheet - for healthcare providers to print out.
This information sheet provides important information on the likely side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, management of side effects and the processes to follow to report an Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs) Please ensure all immunisation providers are aware of this important information.
Safety of COVID-19 vaccines
In clinical trials of tens of thousands of patients, the vaccines appear to be safe. Tens of millions of people globally have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Most side effects are mild and transient. Reactions at the injection site and some systemic reactions, like headaches, fever and fatigue, are very common within the first 48 hours. There are no known serious adverse events attributable to vaccination, with the exception of anaphylaxis, which for Pfizer/BioNTech was observed in the USA in late December 2020 to occur at a rate of approximately 1 in 100,000 doses given, and which is treatable. The potential for rare or unanticipated side effects to emerge over time is low, but is being closely monitored, as for any vaccine or medicine.
Likely side effects from COVID-19 vaccines
As with all vaccines, some minor side effects can be expected, these are usually mild and temporary. Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines have reported temporary side effects typical of vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, fever or muscle aches.
Management of side effects
Most side effects start within 24 hours of vaccination and will resolve in 1–2 days on their own. To reduce discomfort, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken. Some of the expected vaccine side effects are similar to the symptoms of COVID-19; however, a key differentiating factor is that respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, runny nose etc) are not caused by the vaccine. People with typical vaccine side effects (injection site pain, mild fever, lethargy) within the first 48 hours after vaccination with a complete absence of any respiratory symptoms may not need to get a COVID-19 test or isolate. People with respiratory symptoms should be tested for COVID-19.
Will there be any ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety?
Monitoring of vaccines will continue after a vaccine has been received. Vaccine recipients may be contacted within the week after vaccination via SMS with a brief survey to collect data on any Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI). This is part of a national adverse events surveillance system called AusVaxSafety. Vaccine recipients can also report any AEFI at www.safevac.org.au.
Healthcare providers are required to report AEFI. Vaccine recipients may be referred to a specialist immunology clinic for review or supervision for future vaccination. If you require clinical advice specific to a COVID-19 vaccine AEFI:
Please refer to the full information sheet for more information on reporting AEFIs.
The Australian Government has partnered with the Australian College of Nursing to develop and deliver free and accredited COVID-19 vaccination training modules. This training is available to all authorised COVID-19 vaccination providers. In addition to Pfizer’s Comirnaty, training is now available for the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. The training modules can be accessed here.
Hosted in partnership with the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Vaccination Special Interest Group and The University of Sydney.
This webinar, held on 12 February 2021, was the first in the two-part webinar series in preparation for the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia.
View the webinar here.
This webinar, held on 19 February 2021, was the second in the two-part webinar series in preparation for the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia and focussed on the Oxford Vaccine Group-Astra Zeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine.
The recording is now available on the NCIRS website.
A tool has been developed to assist women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy decide whether to have a COVID-19 vaccine. The resource includes information about the COVID-19 virus and pregnancy, as well as the available information about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy to support informed decision making. The guide can be read here.
This decision aid is to help a person who is frail or very old make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. It can be found on the Department of Health website.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), WA Department of Health, the Australian Medical Association (WA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA have been working closely to improve supply of annual influenza vaccination stock to Western Australian general practices.
General practices will soon be contacted by WAPHA to be given the opportunity to review the number of doses pre-allocated to their practice during the first six weeks of the vaccine rollout to ensure it meets refrigerator storage capacity and estimated vaccine usage.
Please look out for this important communication in your inbox over the next 24 hours.
All enquiries relating to the pre-allocation of doses should be directed to Practice Assist phone toll-free 1800 2 ASSIST (1800 2 277 478) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hoped this improved system, which includes a contingency for emergency supply, will ensure a more equitable distribution of initial stock for Western Australia’s health system’s needs, with the necessary flexibility and responsiveness to meet individual practices’ particular requirements.
For more information, read the Joint statement 2021 influenza vaccine distribution and visit the Practice Assist website.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) clinical advice provides information about the seasonal influenza vaccines registered and available for use in Australia in 2021; influenza virus strains included in the 2021 Southern Hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccines; co-administration with COVID-19 vaccines; timing of vaccination; recommendations for pregnant women; and eligibility for influenza vaccines funded by the NIP.
The advice can be downloaded from the Department of Health website.
As part of our support for general practices, Practice Assist maintains a library of useful resources in our Practice Assist Resource Library. These resources range across different topics from GP Accreditation, Practice Incentives Program, to the latest in resources around COVID-19.
Here are some of our new and updated resources:
If you have an idea for a new resource or feedback on our current resources, please email email@example.com with ideas and comments.
WA Primary Health Alliance continues to operate a significant logistical strategy to distribute masks during the COVID-19 pandemic to general practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, pharmacies and allied health practices that meet the criteria of the Department of Health Tranche 4 guidelines.
For mask requests, visit the Practice Assist website. Please note, re-orders will not be accepted within five business days (Mon-Fri) of the previous request, except in exceptional circumstances.
Please send all general queries in relation to the National Medical Stockpile to Stockpile.Ops@health.gov.au.
Your practice can deliver better quality healthcare by securely connecting and sharing health information with the following digital health services and programs.
My Health Record, ePrescribing, Secure Messaging and Telehealth are increasingly being used in General Practice, the Digital Health Team continue to provide support and education on how these may best be integrated into your practice.
The new Digital Health fact sheet gives guidance on setting up and using a number of different tools. Further support and training is available via firstname.lastname@example.org or via Practice Assist.
The Western Australian Health Department has released an information sheet on using secure messaging for submission of referrals to the Central Referral Service.
See the information sheet here.
For support contact:
Further information about the CRS can be found on the CRS website.
The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) evaluation of the impact of the national HPV vaccination program has found that HPV vaccination coverage is high and there has been a substantial reduction in the burden of HPV-related disease since the introduction of the vaccine in Australia.
It was also found that adverse events following immunisation have been predominantly mild and transient in nature, with the vaccine safety record similar to that of other vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.
Read the full report here.
Sometimes medicines, including vaccines, have unexpected and undesirable side effects. The NPS MedicineWise AME Line provides consumers with an avenue for reporting and discussing adverse experiences with medicines, including COVID 19 vaccines. Call the AME Line if you suspect that your medicine is causing a problem and you’re worried about using it. The AME Line provides independent, accurate and evidence-based information.
Your call will be answered by NPS MedicineWise pharmacists. The AME Line is funded by the Department of Health.
Call 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia.
Hours of operation: Monday–Sunday 5am–5pm WST (excluding public holidays).
Rockingham and Peel are considered metropolitan syphilis hotspots and as you may be aware, a syphilis outbreak has been declared in metropolitan Perth.
More information is available here.
Researchers at La Trobe University are seeking to interview healthcare practitioners who have delivered telehealth (phone and/or video conferencing) for hepatitis C treatment during COVID-19. Participation involves an audio-recorded one-hour interview, over phone or video conference.
The study will support the hepatitis C sector to optimise the use of telehealth.
For further information contact Dr Frances Shaw via phone: 0431 483 918 or
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for more than one in four deaths in Australia. Re-engaging with Australians about their cardiovascular risk has never been so important and yet, it has never been so challenging given our competing health priorities during the pandemic.
The Heart Foundation remains committed to supporting the streamlined delivery of CVD risk assessment and management in Australian primary care, and has recently launched the Heart Health Check Toolkit.
The new Heart Health Check Toolkit is a one-stop shop designed to assist general practice staff to easily assess and manage CVD risk in line with the latest guidance. It offers a range of tools and resources including assessment and management templates, quality improvement tools, patient engagement resources and much more.
The Toolkit simplifies the delivery of Heart Health Checks for GPs and practice nurses and encourages them to actively recall their at-risk patients for risk assessment. It also encourages a whole of practice approach so that teams can improve heart health outcomes for their patients while maximising the financial incentives they can receive via the Department of Health quality improvement program.
For further information please visit the following HealthPathways:
Northern Australia Primary Health Limited (NAPHL) have developed a free Veteran Health Education Program for GPs, Practice Managers (PMs) and Practice Nurses (PNs).
This education is part of the Enhancing Primary Health Care for Veterans Project that aims to equip General Practice professionals across Australia with the knowledge, confidence and resources to deliver effective and appropriate health care for defence veterans.
The live online education events have been very successful, reaching GPs, PMs and PNs across Australia.
This course will close on 31 March 2021, for further information and registration click here.
Disasters can be very stressful for those directly impacted, as well as health professionals and those involved in disaster management efforts.
Phoenix Australia in collaboration with Primary Health Networks and other key partners, has launched the Disaster Mental Health Hub to help GPs and other health practitioners to support individuals, families and communities during the disaster response.
It includes access to free disaster mental health information, sheets and videos, online training programs and health professional support resources such as Tips for Supporting Medical Centre Staff.
For more than 130 years, Ngala has been providing community support in the areas of child development and parenting. The many skilled Ngala practitioners at Ngala have supported parents and carers, giving them a sigh of relief and a feeling that they are in safe hands with the team. Ngala believes that every child deserves the opportunity to be their best, and that raising children should be a joyful and rewarding experience. It is a well-known fact that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are critical for their development. The months from birth until the age of three are the best opportunity we have to provide our children with the optimal start to life. That is why Ngala’s range of programs and services are modelled to ensure that parents are supported during this critical time.
Ngala’s Parenting Line and Residential Parenting Services delivered at Ngala’s private hospital are classified as essential services and are required to provide continued support to the community through times of crisis. This is why these two services provided expert care and support for parents through the recent Covid-19 lock downs and restrictions.
The Ngala Parenting Line, 08 9368 9368, is a free service and receives more than 13,000 calls per year with questions from sleep routines to how to support adolescents. Skilled practitioners are on the other end of the line, ready to offer information, strategies and ideas for parents and caregivers to work towards overcoming parenting challenges; and to connect families to local community services to meet the health, development and wellbeing needs of the whole family. The Parenting Line team provides great support and information for parents, carers of children aged 0 to 18 years as well as other health professionals, 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm.
Ngala’s Private Hospital is located in Kensington, offering Day Stay (1 Day) or Extended Day (4 Days) stays as part of its Residential Parenting Service. A stay at the hospital is an opportunity for parents to access early intervention support if they are feeling overwhelmed and anxious or showing signs of being at risk of postnatal depression.
During their stay parents and carers will have access to a multi-disciplinary team, who can provide a range of therapeutic interventions. This team includes Child Health Nurses, Midwives, Lactation Consultants, Mothercraft Nurses, Social Workers and Clinical Psychologists. Parents or carers who want to access this service with their child must be referred by their GP.
For more information about the Ngala Parenting Line or the
Residential Parenting Service, visit www.ngala.com.au.
The Statewide Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Program (SPIMHP) is offering grants of between $500 and $1,000 to government and non-government agencies to host events in remote, regional and metropolitan Western Australia to acknowledge World Maternal Mental Health Day, 5 May 2021.
Complete the application form and submit via email to email@example.com.
Applications close 4pm on 15 March 2021. Recipients announced on 31 March 2021.
Professional and personal pressures can arise for general practice teams at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic.
To support GPs and practice staff to look after themselves and take the necessary steps to support their wellbeing, WA Primary Health Alliance is offering three free confidential counselling sessions via its Wellness Program.
Provided through AccessEAP, and available to all WA-based general practice staff, the program offers confidential sessions with a counsellor who can offer information and assistance in navigating the COVID-19 response as well as other personal and professional issues.
Issues that can be addressed during counselling sessions include:
GPs and practice staff can also contact Practice Assist by calling 1800 2 ASSIST or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the program.
For more information please visit the Practice Assist COVID-19 Well-being and Support webpage.
Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere - Living Well with Kidney Disease
Being diagnosed with kidney disease can be a huge challenge, both for the patient and those people around them. Its diagnosis and management, particularly in advanced stages of kidney disease, impacts severely upon their lives by reducing their, and that of family and friends, ability to participate in everyday activities like work, travel and socialising whilst causing numerous problematic side effects – e.g. fatigue, pain, depression, cognitive impairment, gastrointestinal problems and sleep problems.
The World Kidney Day Steering Committee has declared 2021 the year of “Living Well with Kidney Disease”. This has been done in order to both increase education and awareness about effective symptom management and patient empowerment, with the goal of encouraging life participation. Read more here.
Click here for downloadable resources.
Visit our Webinars & Workshops page at www.practiceassist.com.au for the events calendar.