News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

National Cabinet revises COVID-19 vaccine strategy impacting use of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines

Health Industry Hub | April 23, 2021 |
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Pharma News: The National Cabinet met yesterday to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response and changes to the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. To date, 1,785,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia. The number of administration sites has expanded, with 4,500 general practices as well as general practice respiratory centres and Aboriginal health services now administering COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We are now at 7 per 100, which puts us ahead of the European Union, ahead of countries like Belgium and France and Italy and of course, countries like New Zealand and Canada at the same time of their vaccination rollout,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

National Cabinet agreed to recalibrate the delivery model for the COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout Strategy, taking into account the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) medical advice on the use of AstraZeneca vaccines.

Limiting access to the Pfizer vaccine to:

  • People aged under 50 years eligible in phases 1a and 1b
  • Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) residents
  • Disability care residents with complex needs who require in-reach vaccination services
  • People in remote and very remote communities

Better utilisation of the available stock of AstraZeneca doses: by bringing forward access to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for phase 2a eligible people aged 50–69 years commencing with General Practice Respiratory Clinics (GPRCs) and state and territory COVID-19 vaccination sites from 3 May 2021 and General Practice (GP) clinics from 17 May 2021.

Increasing access to the Pfizer vaccine: by immediately opening state and territory-operated sites to eligible people, including under 50 year old aged care and disability care workers; and establishing a Pfizer mass vaccination plan, which includes state and territory mass vaccination sites and large GP and GPRC sites.

Maintaining the lead role for GPs in administering the AstraZeneca vaccine: as demand exists and supply permits, allocating more doses to GPs.

Supplementing the role of GPs: with states and territories continuing to operate AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination sites and services where required to supplement the primary care network and immediately opening these sites to people aged 50 years and over and eligible in phases 1a and 1b.

Making better use of some vaccination sites: by permitting state and territory-operated vaccination sites to operate Pfizer and AstraZeneca services from one site, provided the site is large enough to allow for complete clinical separation of the two services.

States and territories can choose to incorporate community pharmacies: (which were originally due to commence from Phase 2a) into their roll-out plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited other points of presence.

National Cabinet also agreed the revised COVID-19 vaccine national roll-out strategy which, in light of the age-based preferential Pfizer vaccine recommendation, adjusts the age cut-off for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people eligible in phase 1b to ‘50 years and over’ (down from 55 years and over) and expands eligibility in phase 2b to 16 and 17 year olds (now that Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for this age group and is approved for use in 16 and 17 year olds).

The Commonwealth will further contribute 50% of the additional costs incurred by states and territories to set up additional COVID-19 clinics after 21 April 2020, where necessary to support the recalibrated delivery model.

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