Texts urge disabled to get virus booster

(Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

The disabled and their carers will be the focus of a text message campaign to improve Australia’s uptake of second COVID-19 boosters and antiviral treatments.

More than a million disability pensioners and their carers will from August receive texts highlighting access to fourth vaccination doses and anti-virals to counteract the potential for severe illness.

The campaign will be targeted and the messages have been developed following consultation with those living with disability.

The federal government extended eligibility for Australians who test positive to COVID to be able to access antiviral treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme earlier this month.

That group now includes anyone aged 30 or over who is disabled and has at least one other identified risk factor. Weekly prescriptions for oral antivirals have almost tripled since the access changes.

The text message campaign comes as the country’s disability reform ministers come together in Canberra on Friday to discuss issues impacting people living with disability.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Bill Shorten and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth will lead the meeting.

The latter says up to 40,000 people a day will be sent texts in the effort to boost protection.

“We know that vaccination rates for people on the disability support pension are lower than the general population,” Ms Rishworth said.

“The … government is committed to leaving no one behind and holding no one back and that includes people living with disability.”

Meanwhile, the nation’s health regulator says no rapid antigen tests have been removed from the market because they couldn’t detect the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration issued the public notice on Thursday evening following several incorrect media reports RATs were ineffective.

The TGA confirmed only four RATs have so far been cancelled from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, with three being removed by their supplier.

The TGA only cancelled one product because the sponsor couldn’t provide sufficient data on the RAT’s sensitivity to COVID-19.

“The use of RATs to monitor for SARS-CoV-2 infection is a vital measure in managing the COVID-19 pandemic,” the TGA statement said.

“The TGA continues to monitor RAT performance, with information regularly released on the TGA.”


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