COVID-19 Vaccine developments: what the Industry Taskforce learned from Queensland Health
James Parker (Social Policy and Legislation Branch) and Lisa Nissan (Vaccine Taskforce) from Queensland Health presented on the COVID-19 vaccines.
As part of the current scope of the vaccine rollout a COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce has been established.
James shared information about how QLD Health is planning to roll out the vaccine.
- Public messaging is that vaccines will start in February – expected late Feb will start Phase 1a.
- QLD Health is working on an ethical framework to describe how the vaccine will be administered. Australia’s approach is to prioritise protecting people at highest risk.
- The sequencing of the phases is not intended to be linear and people will have another opportunity if they aren’t vaccinated in Phase 1. There are many opportunities for people to be vaccinated. Making it available for as many people as possible is the aim.
Phases of vaccine administration:
- There will be several phases in delivering the vaccine across Queensland’s community:
- Phase 1a – highest risk people (residential disability and aged care residents and workers, border control, frontline health workers)
- Phase 1b includes other vulnerable groups (elderly, underlying health conditions, older ATSI, other health and critical workforce)
- Phase 2a and b are focused on the balance of the adult population, with older people, critical workers and younger ATSI prioritised.
- Phase 1a is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to vaccine people and workers in disability and aged care residential care. The Commonwealth has indicated disability residential care sites with two or more people with disability are in scope). Most or all those in this phase will be vaccinated via an in-reach service.
- Parallel to 1a will be a vaccination program for border staff and health care staff which will be operated out of hubs. As part of Phase 1a there are six sites being set up in major hospitals.
- Families are not a priority group unless they belong to another priority group, for example underlying health vulnerability, the remainder will be included in 2b as part of broader community
- Children and young people under 18 years are part of phase 3 and will be vaccinated if recommended at that time
- There are three vaccines currently being anticipated in Australia.
- Doses and frequency are important i.e. Two doses needed 21 days apart or 28 days apart (type dependent).
- COVID vaccine needs to be administered 14 days aside from flu vaccination.
- The vaccine will not be mandatory and will be accessible to all.
- Consent will be critical and QLD Health are working with Office of the Public Guardian for advice on this.
- Another principle is where in-reach takes place, the vaccine will be offered to everyone on site regardless of which phase they are allocated to. There may be some limitations to this.
Considerations to broader community groups
- Considerations to First Nations people and people with disability are included in comms developed.
- QLD Health will work with CALD communities to understand and overcome myths and concerns.
- Materials have been translated to 26-30 different languages and pictorial formats and will be available on the website.
- People experiencing homelessness will be a priority group in messaging around the two doses of the vaccine needed – learnings from US /Canada showed good turnout rate for first shot but poorer turnout for the second shot among homeless population.
Working with Community Services to roll out the vaccine:
- A list of Govt. and non-govt. aged care accommodation has been provided to Commonwealth and organisations should expect contact as early as the next two weeks to schedule a day to vaccinate residents and associated workforce. Similar arrangements for disability accommodation services with support from the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
Communications around the vaccine:
- Comms is being led by Commonwealth but QLD Health will develop materials if there are gaps. Videos and web /social media material is being developed.
- Key messaging is that the vaccine is safe, free and not mandatory.
- National COVID Health Information is available for people to seek information on the vaccine.
The Taskforce asked a series of questions to the QLD Health presenters, included the following:
Could Community Services organisations play a role to help make the rollout successful i.e. clinics be involved with vaccinations and / or community education.
- Within organisations, providers and health services there are opportunities for them to be providers for vaccines under certain structures. This will become clearer during Phase 1a/b for opportunity to administer vaccines at 1b and 2b (training, upskilling staff).
- For CALD groups there is a key role in helping to dispel myths and provide accurate information. Currently QLD Health is working with State agencies to make sure information is available to these communities. A community campaign is being finalised for 1a vaccines next week.
Would it be worth getting information for consent now from participants?
- The Commonwealth disability definition for consent is quite broad and QLD Health is working with the Office of the Public Guardian around this.
- The public guardian will be issuing messaging around how they see consent.
- Organisations are encouraged to start communication with clients about vaccination now in preparation.
How are people decided which vaccine they will receive?
- A variety of vaccines will be available. Australia has an arrangement of the Pfizer vaccine of 20 million doses. (10 million people) and this is already approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This will be the first vaccine rolled out.
- The second vaccine is expected to be AstraZeneca, which is not yet approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration but this approval is expected soon. This vaccine is produced in Australia so supply will be less complicated. It can also be stored at 4 degrees, so distribution is much easier.
Has any consideration been given to community transport for people i.e. aged care and senior people who don’t have access to transport?
- Plan is that people will use a booking system to avoid unnecessary queueing and enable groups to coordinate.
How will aged people in remote, rural regional areas access the vaccine?
- Working with HHS and PHNs to operate an outreach service. QH is currently working with supplying the vaccine to HHSs and how they can store and transport the vaccines in order to go out and visit the community.
- Communication packs and information re booking system will be available to distribute to community – these are being finalised now.
What is the potential for employers to see the vaccination as mandatory for particular roles, although Federal government has not made the mandatory? What is QLD Health advice re State health orders for them to made mandatory?
- Individual industrial discussions are underway but employer requirements re vaccinations are case by case situation based on the work situation.
- Managing people’s exposure and risk in the workplace and work obligations are a priority – no-one will be forced to have the vaccine, but some work settings may present additional risk for unvaccinated workers.
- From NDIS Quality and Safeguards perspective they are clear that they do not want providers to make the vaccination mandatory for staff and participants. However a self-managed participant could decide to engage only workers who have been vaccinated.
- Scott Morrison declared that Commonwealth healthcare workers would not be required to be vaccinated.
How can organisations follow up if people have had one or two shots?
- There will be an opportunity to have a vaccine passport or record, and this will be in the control of the individual.
- The vaccine will be held in their Commonwealth AIR (immunisation record).
- A paper copy and electronic copy of proof of vaccine can be provided.