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Vaccinations are having a positive effect on COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care facilities (RACFs).

Australian Government data indicates that mortality rates of residents in RACFs have decreased by 91% from October 2020 to October 2021.

During this time, there were 82% more RACF COVID-19 outbreaks across Australia, but the high level of vaccination among residents and staff resulted in significant improvements in outcomes.

Despite there being 82% more outbreaks, the transmission rates increased by a much smaller amount on the pre-vaccination outbreak data from 2020 (residents 23% and staff 14%).

It is anticipated that transmission rates will decrease by October 2022, with a higher proportion of residents and staff vaccinated for the entire year.

In both data sets, 42–43% of outbreaks only contain one case, which indicates manageability of outbreaks.

In light of the improved survival and transmission rates, it is timely for general practitioners and RACF RNs to revisit discussions with residents (or guardians) who have not consented to be vaccinated.

Changes and updates for RACF health professionals

By October 25, all RACF staff are to be double vaccinated.

By October 31, all health practitioners and students must have one dose. A second dose is required by 4 December to enter an RACF.

Visitor and resident directives are outlined on the NSW Health website.Mid North Coast and northern NSW RACFs, the Public Health Unit, local health districts (LHDs) and Healthy North Coast continue to prepare and monitor local clusters occurring. However, the focus is changing, with the NSW and Federal Governments moving toward a COVID-19 outbreak being ‘business as usual’. Imminent changes to decreased self-isolation periods for double vaccinated people will support these changes.

Healthy North Coast’s COVID-19 RACF GP Framework remains in place. However, as outbreaks become business as usual, the focus will be on ensuring timely communication between all sectors and flexibility in responses based on the outbreak team’s assessment.

The Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in one or more RACFs in NSW remains in place, with the most significant aspect for primary care being that the LHD physicians lead medical management of COVID-19-positive cases. The RACF outbreak response plans through the LHDs vary, but the overarching principles of the joint protocol are in place.

The COVID-19 Assessment and Management in Residential Aged Care HealthPathway has been updated to reflect the joint protocol arrangements.