COVID-19 Vaccine RACF Preparedness
Frequently asked questions
We’ve compiled the answers below to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF). Answers are valid as at 10 March 2021 and will be reviewed and updated regularly.
As an immuniser, do I get to vaccinate aged care?
Only immunisers contracted to one of the workforce providers Health Care Australia (HCA) or Sonic Healthcare, specially accredited to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, are allowed to vaccinate RACF residents.
Can a nurse practitioner administer the vaccine in the RACF?
No, Nurse Practitioners are not allowed to administer the COVID-19 vaccination to RACF residents, unless they are authorised as immunisers and employed by one of the workforce providers - HCA or Sonic.
Do Registered Nurses (RN) at RACFs require special training for the vaccination?
No special training will be required for RN, as they will not be administering the COVID-19 vaccination to RACF residents.
How frequently will COVID-19 vaccinations be required?
This is not yet known, but Australia is learning from other countries which are further ahead in their vaccination program. Recent press reports indicate that a booster may be required, and it will probably also depend on how often the virus mutates and whether an entirely new vaccine may be required.
Additionally, it is not yet known whether any booster developed could be delivered at the same time as fluvax, or separately.
Can you still pass on the virus after having had a vaccination?
The vaccine reduces symptoms and lessens the impact on the recipient, but whether it prevents the recipient passing on the virus to someone else is not yet known. Initial clinical trials examined disease severity for the individual recipient, and current clinical trials of all vaccines are looking at transmissibility.
Where is the consent form?
The consent form is in the Australian Government's COVID-19 vaccine aged care readiness toolkit. The Older Person's Advocacy Network's (OPAN) informed consent webinar may also be helpful for families.
Where can I find the "informed consent" video?
Is verbal consent sufficient?
Verbal consent is acceptable, but written consent is very much preferred.
Please clarify the role of the GP in obtaining consent.
Is the expectation that the government consent form is used?
Are we able to begin to get consent from people now, or do we have to wait?
Yes - please commence obtaining consent immediately. It will take some time to organise, consult with families and GPs, and prepare documentation.
How long does a consent form last?
The PHN assumes that - as per other vaccines - consent remains valid unless and until revoked. If the patient/resident's clinical condition changes, the consent and suitability should be reviewed.
In a advocacy forum recently there was discussion related to the rights of residents who consent to have COVID-19 vaccination and there will be other residents and staff who elect not to have the COVID-19 vaccination. This will be the case - has this been raised within your forums with the Department of Health?
The PHN will follow this up and provide further information when it is available. There are a number of social and ethical issues which are emerging and will required careful consideration.
Does the agency doing the immunisation discuss patients directly with GPs?
No, unless there are concerns noted at the time of vaccination. It is likely that the RACF clinical leader would facilitate any communication with the GP.
How much notice will be provided regarding vaccination dates?
The Department of Health indicated that facilities will soon know the week in which the vaccination teams will attend their location, and will provide as much notice as possible. The PHN will stress the importance of this to the Department of Health, and update this response when more information is available.
Why is the COVID-19 vaccination being rolled out differently to the flu vax? Why can't we vaccinate our residents ourselves?
There are many answers to this question, including relating to the training required for the new vaccine, practical storage issues with the Pfizer vaccine and the use of multi-use vials (different to the normal fluvax). Everyone administering any COVID-19 vaccines will need sepecial training.
In addition, there is a clinical recommendation that there is at least a two weeks period between having the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, so keep that in mind. COVID-19 vaccinations will need to be staged around the influenza vaccinations, and we do not yet have information about when that will be available.
Given there may be some cold-like symptoms after the injection, will facilities be given more than one vaccine date, so we can spread the staff?
The PHN understands that there will be very little flexibility in the schedule, but there may be opportunity to make requests which will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. There have been very limited reports of any adverse effects of the vaccines in Australia. At present the plans to vaccinate staff are still under development
Resident, respite and home care vaccinations
Will respite consumers be vaccinated?
If respite consumers are present at the time of the clinic, they will be offered vaccination. However, they will need to be able to be present for the subsequent dose.
How do facilites get new staff and residents vaccinated if they arrive after the first dose has been administered?
The PHN is seeking clarification on this question from the Department of Health. This answer will be updated when a response is received.
The vaccination checklist on the website states that the resident's wrist band will be hole punched after each vaccine. Will we be able to attach the wrist band to their clinical folder for patients who refuse to wear wrist bands?
The PHN assumes that if necessary, reasonable alternative arrangements are made to ensure appropriate record keeping and monitoring of residents who have been vaccinated.
Will bedbound residents be vaccinated at the bedside?
Where residents are unable to be moved to a common area for any reason, the injection occurs in their rooms.
Has there been any information or conversation about home care consumers - will these be liaising with GP?
Yes, those who live outside of residential aged care or disability services will be included in the rollout via GPs. The PHN is awaiting more information about this and will provide an update when available.
Will residents' relatives be allowed to visit if they haven't received the vaccine?
Yes - the vaccine is not compulsory for anyone, and the rollout will take some time. The Australian Government has indicated that there is no plan to change this approach. It is important that appropriate precautions remain in place.
Does a person who has the first dose need to come back to the same location for the second dose?
Yes, if the first dose was administered at an aged care facility, the second dose will need to be administered at the same aged care facility.
Staff and volunteer vaccinations
Will staff and residents all be vaccinated on one day?
When will staff receive the vaccination? Do they have to go to the residential facility directly or will they get it at a GP?
The plan for staff vaccination has not yet been released by the Department of Health. However, where the vaccine provider has additional doses on site, the staff may be offered vaccination.
Which vaccine will staff be having?
Where excess doses are available, staff may be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Otherwise, the current plan is for people in Category 1b to be vaccinated using the Astra-Zeneca vaccine.
Where and how do Allied Health staff register for the vaccine? As a sole practitioner working in disability sector in peoples home, I can't go via RACF or group home pathway.
Allied health workers who are regular workers at residential aged care facilities and are present on the day staff receive their first doses will be deemed staff and can be vaccinated. (Allied health workers should confirm that they are on the staff list for the RACF at which they do most of their work).
See the eligibility fact sheet and vaccine eligibility checker.
Will agency staff be vaccinated in the first round?
Yes, the PHN understands that if agency staff are regular workers in a residential aged care facility, and are rostered on the day that staff vaccinations take place, they will be vaccinated. They will need to return to the same facility to receive their second dose on the day the facility is scheduled for staff to receive their second doses.
See the eligibility fact sheet and vaccine eligibility checker.
Will regular visitors who come in daily be vaccinated?
The COVID vaccination – ‘Staff’ definition for Phase 1A inclusion in residential aged and disability care facilities discusses the definition of what constitutes staff.
Those who are not eligible as staff can find information on their likely rollout phase using the vaccine eligibility checker.
The COVID-19 vaccination – Triage process and scenario mapping for residential aged care facilities includes the excess dose policy for Phase 1a of the COVID-19 rollout in RACF.
Can volunteers be included with staff?
The PHN believes so, and is seeking further information on this topic. RACFs will need to provide Health Care Australia (HCA) with a list of who exactly in your team is included for vaccination.
See the COVID vaccination – ‘Staff’ definition for Phase 1A inclusion in residential aged and disability care facilities for more information.
Symptoms and side effects
What is the best way to track side effects for residents following administration?
The usual observation process for post-vaccine administration and escalation of clinical concern will apply, with concerns being raised to the GP in the first instance.
Will staff be able to attend to work if they have cold symptoms post vaccine (as they will not meet the requirements for pre-entry into a facility)?
No. Anyone who displays COVID-19 symptoms post-vaccination will need to be tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a clear result.
Will residents need to be isolated if they display symptoms post-vaccine, as per normal infection procedures?
Yes. Anyone who displays COVID-19 symptoms post-vaccination will need to be tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a clear result.
What are the long term effects of the COVID-19 vaccinations?
See the COVID-19 vaccine rollout information session 2, which provides more clinical information. Long-term studies will be completed as sufficient numbers of people are vaccinated. Tracking of side effects and adverse events is underway internationally, which will provide additional clinical information.