Unvaccinated aged care residents and staff in Victoria will be allowed to receive coronavirus jabs without a two-week gap from flu shots.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has given the green light for nursing homes which have not received COVID-19 jabs to ignore the recommended space.
Professor Kelly said the two-week gap was designed to help determine which vaccine any adverse side effects originated from.
“There’s no other sort of safety element or difficulty with mixing,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
He said the gap would remain in place for all Australians except facilities in Victoria yet to receive vaccines.
Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed the new guidelines in parliament after sustained questioning from Labor about at least 16 aged care facilities yet to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“That has come about precisely because of the circumstances in Victoria,” he said.
Hunt said 582 of 598 nursing homes in Victoria had received vaccinations, with the remaining 16 expected to immunise residents over the next two days.
The minister read from Kelly’s letter outlining the changed advice for nursing homes in Victoria where a coronavirus cluster has sparked a seven-day lockdown.
“Given the evolving COVID-19 epidemiological situation in Victoria, it is my recommendation that residents and staff in aged care settings be vaccinated as quickly as possible against COVID-19,” Kelly wrote.
“In order to do this it will mean that there is a shortened interval of time placed between the administration of the seasonal influenza and COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is important to note that this will not have an impact on the effectiveness of the two vaccines but rather ensure our most vulnerable are protected at a time when COVID-19 is circulating more readily within the community.”
Of the 910 coronavirus deaths in Australia, 685 have been in aged care.
Labor savaged the government for failing to vaccinate all aged care residents and staff three months after the rollout kicked off.
“This is a scandal. All of the residents of aged care facilities across Australia were promised full vaccination by Easter by Scott Morrison,” opposition health spokesman Mark Butler told reporters.