A message from the Ministry of Health re: COVID-19

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 continues to circulate in the NSW community but at relatively low levels following a peak in December 2022. Several indicators are now suggesting COVID-19 cases will increase in March and April. It is important that all health care providers are planning for an increase in COVID-19 case burden and consider ways to best protect our community as we approach the winter months.

COVID-19 Vaccination

Pharmacists should expect an increase in demand for COVID-19 booster vaccinations resulting from the 2023 ATAGI recommendations.

Pharmacists are well positioned to identify those in our community who are overdue for a COVID-19 booster. We ask you consider ways to encourage those who are eligible to receive their next dose and optimise capacity to deliver vaccination before June 2023. Please consider discussing COVID-19 and Influenza vaccination with eligible populations including:

  • anyone over the age of 65;
  • any person who may be at high risk of severe disease from COVID-19 or those with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities; and
  • those working with local residential care facilities to offer booster visits.

People in these groups should receive a booster regardless of the number of prior doses received.

COVID-19 Antivirals

Facilitating the timely administration of antiviral medications to those eligible is vital to support the community.

As the COVID-19 landscape changes, NSW Health messaging encourages people at high risk of severe disease to see their doctor to develop a plan if they get sick. This includes having a pre-assessment for anti-viral medications and obtaining a pre-filled pathology request form ahead of getting sick.

PBS COVID-19 anti-viral eligibility criteria were updated in January and February 2023 following the updated PBAC recommendations. The population criteria were expanded to further include:

  • patients with severely immunocompromising conditions who have received anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody treatment in the last 12 months; and
  • all people 18 years and older who have been previously hospitalised with COVID-19.

There was also the addition of a prescribers note to use molnupiravir only if nirmatrelvir/ritonavir is contraindicated or otherwise unsuitable.