Update on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines

The Australian Government has announced a staged rollout of the vaccine, which is expected to commence in February 2021.

Healthcare professionals have an important role in discussing and delivering vaccination against COVID-19 with their patients.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available from early mid-February this year. Doses of this vaccine will be available through 30 to 50 hubs at specific hospital sites across urban and rural Australia. Approval of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated for the coming months. Both vaccines will progressively be distributed through an expanded number of sites, including general practice clinics, existing Commonwealth GP respiratory clinics, state-run vaccination clinics and pharmacies.

The vaccine rollout roadmap has determined the phases of vaccination for priority groups. They are:

Phase 1a

  • Quarantine and border workers
  • Frontline at-risk health care workers
  • Residential aged care and disability care staff
  • Residential aged care and disability care residents.

Phase 1b

  • Adults over 70 years
  • All other health care workers
  • Begin vaccinating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability
  • Critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

Phase 2a

  • Adults over 50 years
  • Continue vaccinating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Other critical and high-risk workers.

Phase 2b

  • Balance of adult population
  • Catch up any unvaccinated Australians from previous phases

Phase 3

  • People under 18 years if recommended

Frontline health care workers in phase 1a are those at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.This includes GP Respiratory Clinics; COVID-19 testing facilities; ambulance staff; paramedics; ICU staff; emergency department staff, and clinical and ancillary support staff. Other health care workers, including GPs, will be included for vaccination for phase 1b as soon as additional doses are available.

Learn more at the Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccines website and subscribe to the COVID-19 Vaccines Update.

We plan to hold a webinar with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, when specific details are available to answer specific questions about the process and safety.

Useful RACS reports
RACS has published two new reports that you may find useful in guiding your practice. The Delaying Surgery for Patients Recovering from COVID-19 (PDF 631.07KB) rapid review identifies current evidence on the long-term pathophysiological and functional sequelae of COVID-19 in patients who have recovered. It also looks at the impact of prior COVID-19 infection on postoperative surgical outcomes in patients who have recovered from the acute illness.  

The second report – RACS Advocacy – Review of Telehealth Services (PDF 358.66KB) - investigates patient and provider satisfaction toward telehealth services, and barriers and facilitators to its implementation.
Useful links