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COVID-19 newsflash #36: COVID-19 vaccines and your AHPRA and NMBA obligations

Regulator reminds nurses and midwives of their registration obligations; information about the vaccine rollout and vaccine information and resources; private residential aged care vaccine rollout

AHPRA and NMBA: COVID-19 vaccines and nurses’, midwives and students’ obligations

The obligations of nurses, midwives and nursing and midwifery students in relation to giving, receiving and advising and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccines have been outlined by the health practitioners’ regulator.

The 15 national boards, including the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency issued the reminder on 9 March 2021. The statement applies to all registered health practitioners in Australia.

ANMF encourages members to read the statement carefully to understand their obligations and responsibilities as the national vaccination program gets underway.

The statement says nurses, midwives and students are critical to the success of Australia’s vaccination program by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised, and
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising.

The statement provides detailed advice about sharing information on conscientious objections, anti-vaccination statements and social media.

The statement says: ‘Any promotion of anti-vaccination statements or health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence or seeks to actively undermine the national immunisation campaign (including via social media) is not supported by National Boards and may be in breach of the codes of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action.’

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia issued a separate statement late last year addressing a small number of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination statements to patients and the public via social media which contradict the best available scientific evidence.

The statement reminds nurses and midwives of their registration obligations to follow the professional standards set by the NMBA, including codes of conduct, codes of ethics and the standards of practice, in particular the social media policy.

The NMBA says ‘anti-vaccination material and/or advice which is false, misleading or deceptive which is being distributed by a registered nurse, enrolled nurse or midwife (including via social media) may also constitute a summary offence under the National Law and could result in prosecution by AHPRA.’

The statements are also reproduced at the end of the PDF-version of this newsflash.

Residential aged care vaccination update

There is limited information about the roll out of the vaccine to residential aged care residents, nurses, personal care workers and other staff. ANMF understands private aged care providers schedule vaccinations with their Primary Health Network.

The Australian Government has produced a flow chart titled ‘COVID-19 vaccination – Triage process and scenario mapping for residential aged care facilities’ to assist facilities schedule and organise their logistics.

Information and resources are available for residential aged care providers including:

  • Consent form for COVID-19 vaccine
  • Information on COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine
  • Preparing for COVID-19 vaccine
  • After your COVID-19 vaccine
  • What to expect on COVID-19 vaccination day at your aged care residence.

Vaccination program update

Phase 1a began on 22 February (up to 1.4 million doses) and is continuing. This includes quarantine and border workers, frontline health care staff working in hospital emergency departments, COVID-19 and respiratory wards, intensive care and high dependency units, COVID-19 testing facilities, laboratory staff, paramedics, GP respiratory clinics, aged care and disability care staff including nurses, personal care workers, allied health professionals and kitchen, cleaning and laundry, garden and office staff.

Phase 1b will begin on 22 March (up to 14.8 million doses). This group includes people aged over 70s and 80s, immunocompromised, health workers not included in 1a, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55 and emergency service workers – including, police, fire, defence, and meat processing workers.

The full Australian vaccination schedule is included at end of the PDF-version of this newsflash.

The Victorian Health Department is publishing a weekly COVID-19 vaccination update. The latest update includes the following information:

  1. As of Monday 15 March, Victoria’s hospital immunisation hubs had administered 31,808 doses of COVID-19 under the Australian Government’s vaccination program. This means the state is on its way to meet the target of vaccination 40,000 individuals in the program’s first four weeks.
  2. The Australian Government remains confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine and there is currently no evidence that it causes blood clots. Read the statement from the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly
  3. Some countries have paused their use of AstraZeneca following reports of blood clots. The Therapeutic Goods Administration advises a link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine has not been established and extensive international experience does not indicate an increased risk. The TGA says it is closely monitoring safety concerns and working with the European Medicines Agency and other international regulators to ensure evidence from the vaccination of millions of people overseas is used to inform the Australian’s Government’s vaccine program. Read the TGA statement.The European Medicines Agency released a statement on 18 March confirming AstraZeneca was ‘not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots’. The EMA said ‘the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects’. The EMA continues to investigate any link with ‘very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia’. European countries which had paused AstraZeneca are resuming their vaccination programs.
  4. Doses of COVID-19 vaccine are currently limited, but as more doses become available, more people will be vaccinated. The Australian Government has indicated CSL, which is manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine locally in Melbourne, will be supplying the country with one million doses every week from late March.
  5. Victorians at greatest risk of COVID-19 will initially be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Victorian public hospital vaccination hubs. These hubs are currently operating at Albury Wodonga Health, Austin Health, Ballarat Health Services, Barwon Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Latrobe Regional Hospital, Monash Health (in partnership with Alfred Health) and Western Health.In addition, high throughput sites have been established at the Repatriation Hospital and Sunshine Hospital. Further high throughput vaccination sites will be established at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (run by the Royal Melbourne Hospital), the Royal Exhibition Building (run by St Vincent’s Hospital), and the former Ford Factory (run by Barwon Health).

COVID-19 vaccination resources

Nurses, midwives and personal care workers are encouraged to access Australian Government COVID-19 vaccines information, including the following:

  1. Australian Government COVID-19 vaccine website
  2. COVID-19 vaccines ⁠ Is it true? evidence-based answers addressing people’s questions and concerns
  3. Information about the AstraZeneca vaccine – an information sheet providing an update for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca (updated 16 March)
  4. After your AstraZeneca vaccine – a patient fact sheet about what to expect after being given the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination (updated 16 March)
  5. After your Pfizer vaccine (updated 18 March)
  6. Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out – a presentation explaining the phases and rollout
  7. COVID-19 vaccines information about getting the vaccine in Australia
  8. Vaccine information in your languagethe page above has been translated in 63 languages
  9. COVID-19 top 3 questions (video) Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor Alison McMillan answers common questions people are asking on social media. Covers vaccine administration process, face masks and breastfeeding (9 March)
  10. COVID-19 top 3 questions (video) – Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer and infectious diseases physician Dr Nick Coatsworth answers common questions people are asking on social media (12 March)
  11. COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for frail older people, including those in residential aged care facilities (23 February)
  12. COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning pregnancy (updated 16 February)

Israeli mass vaccination data reflects positive Pfizer randomised trials results

A peer-reviewed control study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has found the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is as effective as found in earlier randomised trials.

The study looked at data from Israel’s largest health care organisation – Clalit Health Services. It compared people who were newly vaccinated (between 20 December 2020 and 1 February 2021) with unvaccinated people matching demographic and clinical characteristics. There were 596,816 people in each group.

Researchers found the effectiveness of Pfizer BioNTech in a ‘nationwide vaccine setting’ seven days after the second dose was 92 per cent for documented infection, 94 per cent for symptomatic COVID-19, 87 per cent for hospitalisation and 92 for severe COVID-19.

Israel is giving the second dose at three weeks.

The article titled BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in a Nationwide Mass Vaccination Setting was published on 24 February 2021.

COVID-19 vaccination workforce frequently asked questions

A reminder that COVID-19 newsflash #34 included COVID-19 vaccination workforce frequently asked questions.

This newsflash provides information about payments for undertaking the Victorian vaccination training and how Victoria will find its vaccination workforce.

This FAQ newsflash will be updated as more information becomes available. If you are interested in undertaking the required education and participating in this workforce, we recommend you bookmark this newsflash link.

Other COVID-19-related information for healthcare workers

Healthcare Infection Prevention and Wellbeing Taskforce documents

  1. COVID-19 Best practice approaches for safe staff amenities for health services
  2. Victoria’s respiratory protection program
  3. Victoria’s respiratory protection program guidelines
  4. Daily attestations: frequently asked questions
  5. Protecting our healthcare workers action plan

Victorian Department of Health infection prevent and control resources

Don’t bring it home: guide to minimise the risk of infection

ANMF (Vic Branch) has developed a guide to assist you in relation to returning home from work after a shift. Job Reps and HSRs are encouraged to print the poster which is part of this PDF newsflash. You can also download the ‘Protocols for entering your home and minimising the risk of infection’ A4 poster [PDF].