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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

89% of GPs voice concern over COVID-19 impact on high-risk patients as winter looms

Health Industry Hub | April 12, 2024 |

Pharma News: A recent survey has revealed that three-quarters of Australians at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 do not have a COVID plan in place with their general practitioner (GP) if they were to test positive for the virus. This findings comes at a critical time as the nation approaches winter, typically marked by an uptick in respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

The COVID Community Sentiment Index, a survey commissioned by Pfizer Australia, further revealed that nearly half of Australians at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 would not routinely reach out to their GP if they tested positive, with more than half anticipating difficulties in securing timely appointments. The rise in out-of-pocket expenses associated with GP visits exacerbates the situation, adding further complexity to the challenge.

The latest guidance from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) underscores the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations every 6 to 12 months for older adults and individuals with severe immunocompromise due to their heightened vulnerability to severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Federal government statistics, as of 6 March, show a seven-day rolling average of 62 Australians admitted to hospitals and 32 individuals in intensive care units (ICUs) due to COVID-19 complications.

According to ATAGI, Pfizer and Moderna monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines are preferred over other COVID-19 vaccines. Available data suggests these vaccines provide “modestly enhanced protection from severe disease compared to older vaccines”.

The concerns raised by healthcare professionals in the survey revealed that a staggering 89% of GPs expressed apprehension regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their patients.

Dr Daniel Nour, cardiologist, founder of the not-for-profit organisation Street Side Medics and the 2022 Young Australian of the Year, urged vigilance in recognising the continued threat posed by COVID-19, particularly to more vulnerable segments of the population.

“For most, COVID-19 is no longer front of mind, but the virus is still with us and we anticipate a surge this winter. If someone you care about is at higher risk of serious illness – maybe an elderly parent, a neighbour, a friend – check whether they have a COVID plan in place before they test positive,” he stated.

Various factors, including age over 50, underlying health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, immunocompromised status, or Indigenous background, contribute to an individual’s heightened susceptibility to severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Dr Krishan Thiru, Medical Director at Pfizer Australia and New Zealand, emphasised the seasonal nature of respiratory illnesses and the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases as winter approaches.

“Staying up to date with recommended vaccinations, gathering in well-ventilated spaces and mask-wearing when social distancing isn’t possible remain important, along with knowing your eligibility for antivirals,” Dr Thiru explained.

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