Disabled texts prompting for virus boosters

Disabled people and their carers are being texted to improve uptake of second COVID-19 boosters and antiviral treatments in Australia. Photo: Delivered

Canberra AAP

Disabled people and their carers will be the focus of a text message campaign to improve uptake of second COVID-19 boosters and antiviral treatments in Australia.

More than a million disability pensioners and their carers will start receiving texts from August highlighting access to fourth doses of vaccine and antiviral drugs to counter the potential for serious illness.

The campaign will be targeted and the messages have been developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

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

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

The SMS campaign comes as the country’s disability reform ministers meet in Canberra on Friday to discuss issues affecting people with disabilities.

Bill Shorten, Secretary of State for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Amanda Rishworth, Secretary of Social Services, will chair the meeting.

The latter says up to 40,000 people a day are texting to boost protection.

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

“The … government is committed to not leaving anyone behind and holding back, and that includes people with disabilities.”

Meanwhile, the country’s health agency says no rapid antigen tests have been withdrawn from the market because they failed to detect the Omicron-COVID-19 variant.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration released the public notice Thursday night following multiple false media reports that RATs were ineffective.

The TGA confirmed that to date only four RATs have been removed from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, with three having been removed from their supplier.

The TGA canceled only one product because the sponsor could not provide sufficient data on the RAT’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

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

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

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