As the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out across aged care homes nationwide there have been encouraging signs from overseas as to the various vaccines' ability to reduce infection.
In the US, as of February, 1,315,000 people had been infected across 31,000 aged care homes, with at least 172,000 deaths, yet there has been a significant drop in cases.
As reported by The New York Times, from late December to February new cases of the virus dropped by over 80 per cent, almost double the drop seen in the general population, and new cases in nursing homes are at their lowest point since May last year.
While in the UK, people over 80 who had been vaccinated with one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab had more than 80 per cent protection against hospital admission, while the Pfizer jab was 85 per cent effective at preventing death from COVID-19.
Around 95 per cent of care home residents have been vaccinated, with all other areas of the UK over 93 per cent. Research from the British Medical Journal found that in the three weeks to 14 February, deaths in care homes fell by 62 per cent, the lowest level since the end of October last year.
Overall, the number of deaths in the 85 and over age group has fallen by 45 per cent.
These figures have not as yet been directly attributed to the vaccination program, but experts say that signs are encouraging.
Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, said: "The earliest indications would imply there is some effect. But I think it’s too early to put a number on that. We would expect to see some evidence that is strong enough to put into the public domain in the next few weeks.”
AstraZeneca vaccine under cloud
A number of European nations have paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after some reports of adverse side effects.
Germany, Italy, France and Spain are among a host of countries to suspend their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts while they investigate reports of blood clotting in patients who have been vaccinated, however the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged nations to reconsider.
“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.
Senior members of the government, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, were on Monday night briefed on the vaccine rollout.
Frydenberg on Tuesday reiterated that WHO had also said there was “no evidence” that the AstraZeneca vaccine had caused the blood clots.
“In the case of the United Kingdom, they have already distributed more than 12 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and they haven’t seen those trends or patterns across their community,” he told ABC RN.
“It is still the government’s intention to roll it out, as we’ve said.”
French court weighs action
Families of aged care residents in France have begun legal action in a bid to seek accountability for the thousands of lives lost in homes during the pandemic.
Official figures show that nearly 25,000 nursing homes residents died due to COVID-19 within French nursing homes from over 87,000 lives lost altogether, reported France 24.
However, many residents died after being hospitalised with the virus and many believe that the true death toll may be as high as 50 per cent of all French deaths.
Multiple family members and advocacy groups appeared in a Paris court in a collective effort to get answers from authorities. The hearing involved a special measure to demand access to documents or other material involving decisions at nursing homes as the plaintiffs alleged they have been kept in the dark about the fate of their loved ones.
The complaint, made by families against several nursing homes, the national health agency DGS and the Paris public hospital authority, wants answers about what they see as mismanagement at the start of the pandemic.
Mask shortages for residents and staff, testing shortages, the use of powerful sedatives (such as Rivotril) on some residents while homes were locked down and opaque decisions on which residents received hospital treatment for the virus are among the issues that families want to bring to light.
“We want to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated, that someone is held responsible,” said plaintiff Sabrina Deliry.
Health workers could be punished for anti-vax messages
Health professionals in Australia could be barred from practising for spreading anti-vaccination messages, said the national medical boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA), as reported in the SMH.
In a joint statement, the medical bodies said that healthcare practitioners such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists risk being stripped of their licences if they spread misinformation to patients or on social media.
“There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims including on social media, and advertising may be subject to regulatory action,” spokesperson for the medical boards and Pharmacy Board chairman Brett Simmonds said.
AHPRA chief executive Martin Fletcher urged all of Australia’s 800,000 registered practitioners and 193,800 students to follow the guidelines.
“If you’re a registered health practitioner or student, the best thing to do is to read our joint statement,” he said.
“It explains the National Boards’ expectations of registered health practitioners about receiving, administering and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccines.
“It’s important you understand these expectations so that patients and communities are best protected against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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