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COVID-19: Latest news for general practices

This page is continually being added to and updated. We encourage health professionals to also view COVID-19 for Health Professionals.

COVID-19 Statistics for our region

23 September Update

COVID-19 in Our Region

Local COVID-19 cases in the Nepean Blue Mountains region (as at 8pm 22 Sept)Active cases: 1790

  • Blue Mountains: Active Cases 92
  • Hawkesbury: Active Cases 280
  • Lithgow: Active Cases 9
  • Penrith: Active Cases 1409

ALL LGAs in our region now have exposure sites. Please check the NSW Government site for restrictions in your area as well as the most recent case locationsVaccination rates by suburb are also available online.

Post-Isolation Clinical Guidance

The COVID-19 Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs) includes the latest information for health professionals regarding procedure for patients post-release from isolation including testing requirements. Routine re-testing for patients who have recovered from COVID-19 is not recommended as results may remain positive for six months after the patient has recovered. NSW Health has developed factsheets for patients with instructions for when they are determined a positive COVID-19 case, and for when they have completed their isolation period.

Moderna Vaccination in Pharmacies

Bookings for Moderna vaccinations through pharmacies are now available via the Vaccine Clinic Finder (formerly known as the Eligibility Checker). This week there are five locations available in Blue Mountains LGA, five in Hawkesbury LGA, one in Lithgow LGA and 10 in Penrith LGA. Next week an additional 22 pharmacies will come onboard to deliver Moderna vaccinations across our region. Additional vaccination appointments for Pfizer and AstraZeneca are also opening at general practices and commonwealth vaccination clinics across the region. For more information and to book visit the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Vaccinate Patients at Home

We are seeking GPs who are willing to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to people in their local area who are unable to leave their home to be vaccinated. General practices will be remunerated in addition to the MBS items to undertake this activity. If GPs in your practice are willing to provide vaccinations through a home visit, complete the form on our website.

Head to Health Pop Up

Head to Health Pop Up is a free service which has been developed to provide immediate support for individuals whose mental health has been affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak. No GP referral is needed to access the Pop Up service. Patients can call 1800 595 212, Monday to Friday, 8:30am - 5:00pm and a trained mental health professional will discuss their needs and refer them to appropriate local services for further treatment, if needed. More information is available on our website
This is not a crisis or psychiatry service. Psychiatry services must still be accessed directly through service providers with appropriate referrals. 

21 September Update

Vaccination Rollout Update

  • Last week Australia reached 24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, with more than half of these being administered in primary care.
  • This week an additional 47 practices in our region begin delivering Pfizer vaccinations alongside AstraZeneca. This means we have 84 practices delivering Pfizer in our region, in addition to our three GP-Led Respiratory clinics. From 4 October, 11 more practices will begin delivering Pfizer, meaning a total of 95 practices will be delivering both vaccines, in addition to our three GP-Led Respiratory clinics.
  • Over 300,000 vaccination doses have been delivered in our region since 22 March 2021.

Vaccinating Adolescents (12-17 Years)

Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations are now open to children aged 12 years and older. Bookings are available through the Eligibility Checker. The Department of Health has released two patient factsheets to assist in decision-making around vaccination for this cohort:

Vaccinate Patients at Home

We are seeking GPs who are willing to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to people in their local area who are unable to leave their home to be vaccinated. General practices will be remunerated in addition to the MBS items to undertake this activity. If GPs in your practice are willing to provide vaccinations through a home visit, complete the form on our website.

Updated Vaccination Resources

The Department of Health has recently updated these resources for vaccination providers and their patients:

ATAGI Updates on TTS (15 September)

Vaccine safety information from ATAGI has been updated to include further details regarding vaccination rates and vaccination groups in Australia. ATAGI have also provided updated Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), Immune Thrombocytopenia rates in Australia with use of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), as well as rates of Myocarditis and Pericarditis with the use of Pfizer.

COVID-19 Update from the Deputy CMO

On Thursday 23 September at 11:30am a response update will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca.

14 September Update

Home Visit Vaccination Providers

We are seeking GPs who are willing to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to people in their local area who are unable to leave their home to be vaccinated. General practices will be remunerated in addition to the MBS items to undertake this activity. If GPs in your practice are willing to provide vaccinations through a home visit, complete the form on our website.

Sotrovimab Model of Care

The NSW Government Agency for Clinical Innovation has released a model of care for use of sotrovimab in NSW. Sotrovimab (Xevudy) is a one-off IV infusion which reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79% in adults with mild-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of progression to severe disease and have not been fully vaccinated. 

ATAGI Updates on TTS (8 September)

Vaccine safety information from ATAGI has been updated to include further details regarding vaccination rates in Australia, including the low but increasing coverage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. ATAGI have also provided updated Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) rates in Australia with use of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), as well as rates of Myocarditis and Pericarditis with the use of Pfizer. 

Restrictions on Prescribing Ivermectin

On 10 September the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), acting on the advice of the Advisory Committee for Medicines Scheduling, placed new restrictions on the prescribing of oral ivermectin for COVID-19. GPs are now only able to prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved conditions which include scabies and certain parasitic infections. 

Updated Vaccination Resources

The Department of Health has recently updated these resources for vaccination providers and their patients:

RACGP COVID-19 Webinars

Immunisation History Statement

Patients can access their Immunisation History Statement online via myGov or through the Medicare Express Plus app. Patients can also contact Services Australia to request a copy to be posted to them, or ask their vaccination provider to print them a copy. 

COVID-19 Update from the Deputy CMO

On Thursday 16 September at 11:30am a response update will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca and Dr Ruth Vine Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mental Health. 

9 September Update

COVID-19 Vaccination Home Visit EOI

We are seeking GPs who are willing to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to people in their local area who are unable to leave their home to be vaccinated. General practices will be remunerated in addition to the MBS items to undertake this activity. If GPs in your practice are willing to provide vaccinations through a home visit, complete the form on our website.

Pop Up Lithgow Vaccination Clinic

We have been informed that this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (12-14 September), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be delivering vaccinations at the Civic Ballroom, George Coates Avenue in Lithgow. The clinic will be open from 8:00am-3:30pm for walk-in vaccinations for both AstraZeneca and Pfizer. We are advocating strongly to ensure the ADF returns to complete second dose vaccinations.

Vaccination Procedure Pathway Update

The COVID-19 Vaccination Procedure HealthPathway has been updated to include information about Spikevax side effects and vaccination efficacy in adolescents under the Informed Consent title. There have also been updates under the Management and Reporting of Side Effects title to include the latest information about Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and the Assessment of Risk title regarding Immune thrombocytopenia.

Vaccination Waiting Lists

As of 20 September we will have 89 general practices delivering Pfizer vaccinations in our region, in addition to our three GP-led Respiratory Clinics. These practices are also delivering AstraZeneca vaccinations. If your patients are currently experiencing frustration with long wait times for vaccination at your practice, they can be referred to the Eligibility Checker for alternative vaccination locations. We also have approximately 30 pharmacies delivering AstraZeneca vaccinations in our region

Aboriginal Vaccination Information

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients aged 12-59 years are eligible for vaccination with Pfizer, and have been identified as a priority vaccination group. The Greater Western Aboriginal Health Service (GWAHS) is delivering both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccinations at their location in Penrith. Vaccinations are also available at general practices and commonwealth vaccination clinics across the region. For more information visit the Eligibility Checker.

7 September Update

Vaccinations for Pregnant Patients

Pregnant people are considered part of the Phase 1 rollout and vaccinations for this group should still be prioritised by vaccinating practices. Pregnant people should be routinely offered Pfizer vaccinations at any stage of pregnancy. Pfizer is the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people. Further clinical considerations are available from the Department of Health and RANZCOG.

Changes to COVID-19 Referral Pathways

The vaccination referral information previously located on the COVID-19 Referrals Pathway has been developed into the new COVID-19 Vaccination Referrals and Advice Pathway

Managing COVID-19 in the Community

NSW Health has released a factsheet which details the management of non-hospitalised COVID-19 cases in children. This factsheet outlines the triage of children who can be safely cared for in the community at the time of referral and how to escalate their care appropriately if clinical deterioration is detected.

Vaccination Rollout Update

  • This week Australia reached 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered.
  • By 13 September an additional five practices in our region will begin delivering Pfizer alongside AstraZeneca. 45 will begin delivering Pfizer alongside AstraZeneca from 20 September. These practices are on top of the 37 already delivering AstraZeneca and Pfizer in our region.
  • Over 173,000 vaccination doses have been delivered by general practices in our region since 22 March 2021.
  • The Eligibility Checker has been updated to include the latest information regarding identified priority groups, as well as additional eligibility information for pregnant women, and expanded age ranges.

ATAGI Updates on TTS (1 September)

Information from ATAGI regarding vaccine safety has been updated to include further details regarding Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) rates in Australia with use of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), as well as rates of Myocarditis and Pericarditis with the use of Pfizer. ATAGI reinforces the importance of completing a two-dose schedule to ensure maximal protection, with the strongest evidence for two doses of the same brand.

Updated Vaccination Resources

The Department of Health has recently updated these resources for vaccination providers and their patients:

2 September Update

Pfizer Vaccination Eligibility

Everyone aged 16-59 years is now eligible for Pfizer vaccinations, bookings can be made through the Eligibility Checker. Adolescents aged 12-15 years who are in identified priority groups can also book Pfizer vaccinations, with vaccinations opening for the remainder of this age cohort from 13 September.

The additional Pfizer vaccination roll-out within general practices will begin the week of 13 September, with 88 of our vaccinating practices in addition to our three GP-led Respiratory Clinics, anticipated to be onboard by 4 October.

PPE Protection for General Practices

In recent weeks a number of practices in our region have been subject to COVID-19 exposure, and subsequent closure, as case numbers in our region continue to grow. If appropriate PPE is in place during face-to-face contact with patients, such as P2/N95 masks and goggles or face shields, the Public Health Unit will not need to declare staff a close contact should they come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case. Review the NSW Health Healthcare Worker COVID-19 Exposure Risk Assessment Matrix for further details.

Telehealth remains the recommended strategy for consultations, however if you need to see a patient face-to-face they should be assessed for COVID-19 exposure prior to them entering your practice.

Vaccination After COVID-19 Infection

COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended for people with a past history of COVID-19. The ATAGI clinical guidance on COVID-19 vaccination (pp.15) recommends that vaccination is deferred by up to six months after acute infection with COVID-19. This is because after having had COVID-19, the risk of being re-infected may be reduced for at least six months. Patients who have experienced severe or prolonged symptoms (beyond six months) can be vaccinated on a case-by case basis.

Transfer of Vaccines Between Practices

Practices participating in the vaccination program may transfer vaccines to another participating practice due to oversupply, unmet demand at another site or other reasons. Transportation between sites is supported, provided both sites agree to the transfer and cold chain integrity is maintained. The Department of Health has compiled a factsheet for on this process for practices (27 Aug).

Updated Vaccination Resources

The Department of Health has recently updated these resources for vaccination providers and their patients:

30 August Update

ATAGI Pfizer Advice for 12 Years and Over

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had previously recommended that Pfizer vaccinations can be delivered to vulnerable groups aged 12 years and older, however it has revised this recommendation to include all adolescents from 12 years of age. A two dose schedule using Pfizer is the only vaccine currently registered for use in Australia in this age group. The Eligibility Checker will be updated with this information shortly and bookings will be available from 13 September. People aged 12 to 15 who are in a priority group can book now. 

Updates to HealthPathways

The COVID-19 Vaccination Procedure Pathway has been updated with the latest ATAGI information on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in all young adolescents in Australia including Moderna (Spikevax) and vaccination requirements and booking for childcare and disability workers. The COVID-19 Vaccination Information Pathway has been updated with the latest available guidance on myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer). 

Checking AIR Prior to Patient Vaccination

It is important to check each patient’s immunisation history before administering any vaccines to ensure you are providing the correct vaccine and adhering to the correct timeframe between vaccinations. Patients immunisation history can be viewed through The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)Clinician Vaccine Integrated Platform (CVIP) and My Health Record.

We have been advised anecdotally that some patients have made appointments to receive a different vaccine from their first dose, so please ensure you check their vaccine record prior to administering any vaccination.

Priority Vaccination For Aboriginal Patients

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients aged 12 years and older are eligible for vaccination with Pfizer, and have been identified as a priority vaccination group. Please ensure you are having conversations with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients about vaccination. The Department of Health has put together a fact sheet with information to assist healthcare workers in talking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about COVID-19 vaccines. There are also key updates and resources available through NSW Health. 

ATAGI Updates on TTS (25 August)

Advice from ATAGI regarding Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine safety has been updated to include further details regarding Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) rates in Australia and overseas. Although estimates of risk based on small numbers of cases are imprecise, the risk of TTS is estimated in Australia at around 2.6 per 100,000 in those under 60 years and 1.8 per 100,000 in those 60 years and over. ATAGI have included information on cases of Immune Thrombocytopenia emerging with use of Vaxzevria, and episodes of myocarditis with use of Pfizer.

Updated Vaccination Resources

The Department of Health has recently updated these resources for vaccination providers and their patients:

26 August Update

COVID-19 Safety Plan for Practices

It is important that every practice has an up-to-date COVID-19 Safety Plan in place to reduce the risk of exposure for your staff and patients. It is never too late to look at your plan and ensure it is currently reflecting the latest recommendations, including appropriate PPE for your staff. The RACGP has designed a template to support practices in maintaining a COVID-19 safe workplace and to comply with public health directives. Call you practice support officer on 4708 8100 or contact us online for implementation support.

State Vaccine Eligibility

Practices that have capacity and available stock may book patients based on NSW eligibility criteria. Phase 1 populations (such as aged and disability care staff, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people aged 12 and over, healthcare workers and those with an underlying health condition) should still be prioritised. NSW Health has the latest information for vulnerable groups such as pregnant people and those with specified underlying medical conditions such as immunocompromising conditions and chronic illness.

Pandemic Fatigue Support

The National Mental Health Commission are encouraging everyone to be on the look out for pandemic fatigue and to take practical steps to maintain their mental wellbeing. Some of the feelings and behaviours you, or your patients may experience include: tiredness, frustration, low in energy, restlessness, irritability and hopelessness. The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Services is available on 1800 512 348. 

Rapid Antigen Testing

The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) have compiled a list of the approved manufacturers of testing kits (25 Aug) for inclusion in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. The TGA have also developed a checklist for businesses which outlines the key considerations for the safe implementation of rapid antigen testing in a workplace.

Clinicians for Head to Health Pop Up

We are seeking a Senior Initial Assessment and Referral Intake Clinician to be part of a new pop up mental health service being established in our region, which will support people whose mental health has been affected by the current COVID-19 lockdown. The Head to Health Pop Up service will initially be located in Kingswood and is different to the Penrith Head to Health Centre which is still being established to open in December. Visit our website for more information or to apply. We also have full-time, part-time and casual roles available for mental health clinicians.

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