An important education campaign will be rolled out to inform Australians ahead of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

The vaccination roll-out will be a complex task and it will be important that people understand the process with the first vaccinations on track for early next year.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said the Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook 20-21 (MYEFO) reinforces the Australian Government’s commitment to continue to protect the community and get lives back to normal through this pandemic.

“The information campaign, with funding of $23.9 million, will work in partnership with the states and medical experts, to explain the regulatory processes, the priority groups, timing and roll-out to assist people to understand how the vaccines work, and to be ready for when they can receive the vaccine,” said Minister Hunt.

“The vaccines will be voluntary and free, we encourage people to have the vaccine to protect themselves and their family.”

“It is essential that people understand that Australia’s medical regulatory processes need to occur before the vaccines are approved for use. We are receiving data from overseas and this will assist in finalising the priority groups for the vaccinations, putting our health and aged care workers in the first wave along with elderly Australians who are at most risk from the virus,” Minister Hunt said.

The COVID-19 vaccine communications will include a national advertising campaign and communication specifically targeting priority groups, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Over $40 million in funding is being provided to streamline processes necessary to the approval and distribution, so the clinical information can be assessed in real time.

The funding for Services Australia, the Australian Digital Health Agency and Therapeutic Good Administration will allow necessary enhancements aimed at reducing existing manual processes and improving digital integration across these systems.

The Government is also improving critical capacity requirements for the Australian Immunisation Register, as the Government’s central resource for recording COVID-19 vaccinations so people will have a record of their vaccination. This will be essential as all current vaccines planned for Australia require a two-vaccine process.

The Government is securing 20 million additional doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. This brings the total number of doses to 53.8 million – enough for the entire Australian population.

The extra 20 million doses will be produced in Australia by CSL.

Additionally, a further 11 million doses of the Novavax vaccine will be purchased, bringing the total for this vaccine to 51 million. This will be an additional whole-of-population vaccine should it be proven to be safe and effective.

A purchasing agreement is also in place for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, with 10 million doses scheduled for early 2021.

Building Australia’s vaccine manufacturing capacity

The Australian Government is investing $1 billion to ensure Australia’s capacity to manufacture vaccines in the future, though its supply agreement with Seqirus.

The Government will extend the current supply agreement with Seqirus, ensuring long-term, onshore manufacturing and supply of products of national significance including pandemic influenza vaccines, Q fever vaccines, and Australian-specific antivenoms from 1 July 2024 through to 2036.

Under this agreement, Seqirus will invest more than $800 million in a new state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing facility in Melbourne.

More than $1 billion to support Senior Australians

MYEFO confirms the Morrison Government’s increased support for senior Australians with an additional $1 billion – including $850.8 million to increase in-home support, ensuring 10,000 more Australians can continue living independently at home for longer.

This investment also continues the Government’s actions to comprehensively respond to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Interim Report and COVID-19 special report – ahead of the Final Report being delivered in February 2021.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said the Australian Government was quickly implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission’s special report on COVID-19, released in October 2020.

This new home care funding is on top of the $1.6 billion investment for more than 23,000 packages announced in the 2020–21 Budget, and will increase the number of Australians receiving in-home care support to approximately 195,600 by 30 June 2021,” said Minister Colbeck.

While the population of those aged 70 and over has jumped by 28 per cent since 2012, home care packages have increased by over 200 per cent with funding tripling - or more than 10 times the growth in population of older Australians.

Aged care residents will be able to access up to 20 individual psychological services, with an additional $35.5 million to expand the eligibility requirements for the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Scheme initiative through to 30 June 2022.

More than $27 million will improve access to allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists for individual and group therapy sessions.

An additional $11.1 million, over five years, will fast-track the implementation of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) to better protect senior Australians in residential aged care, bringing its implementation forward to April 2021.

An additional $57.8 million will be provided to the states and territories to support their pandemic response in aged care.

Reducing stillbirth rates in Australia

The Morrison Government is providing $11 million over four years to continue work to reduce the rate of stillbirths around the country by 20 per cent, under the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan.

Around 2,000 Australian families face the tragedy of stillbirth every year, about six per day – a rate which has changed little over the past 20 years.

Supporting Early Psychosis Youth Services and tackling mental health stigma

A total of $53 million has been allocated by the Morrison Government to extend the Early Psychosis Youth Services (EPYS) Program until 30 June 2022. Funding will be provided to Primary Health Networks to continue to commission the existing EPYS sites and a small amount of funding will also be provided to headspace National and Orygen to support this commissioning activity.

The funding will ensure young people have continuity of care and providers can have certainty during this period.

A further $1 million over two years will go to the National Mental Health Commission to develop a campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people seeking mental health support.

The Productivity Commission Report into mental health noted that such a campaign could encourage the million Australians with a mental illness who have never sought support to reach out, and this could lead to a significant economic benefit.

Strengthening Primary Care – rural and regional primary care

To help address longstanding GP shortages in northern and north-western Tasmania, the Morrison Government is providing $2 million over three years to establish the General Practice Incentive Fund Tasmania (GPIFT) to attract and retain doctors to the region.

Building on the investment in the 2020-21 Federal Budget, this funding will provide a suite of incentives for doctors who relocate to the region and support building IT capability to provide telehealth and other technologies to improve patient access.

The new fund will include support for the local health sector to develop a collaborative primary care model to better integrate services and create a more sustainable workforce for the region.

The Government will also provide $1.0 million over three years to attract and retain GPs to the Peel region of WA and Wide Bay QLD respectively.

New cancer, HIV and muscular atrophy medication added to the PBS

Thousands of Australians each year will benefit from the addition of new medications to the PBS.

Venetoclax (Venclexta®) in combination with obinutuzumab provides a first-line treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia who have co-existing conditions and are unsuitable for fludarabine-based chemo-immunotherapy. This will benefit around 500 patients per year, who without PBS subsidy could pay up to $69,250 per course of treatment.

Nusinersen (Spinraza®) has been expanded to include children and infants genetically diagnosed with severe types of spinal muscular atrophy, but before the onset of symptoms. Without PBS subsidy, patients could pay more than $367,000 a year for treatment.

Dolutegravir + lamivudine (Dovato®) was expanded from 1 December 2020 for the treatment of patients living with HIV who have already used antiretroviral therapy. This listing will save patients more than $8,500 per year.

Protecting Australian sport from international integrity risks

The Morrison Government is providing $13.7 million to boost integrity in sport in Australia with funding for the National Sports Tribunal (NST), and Sport Integrity Australia’s efforts to tackle serious integrity risks.

Funding worth $10.1 million will support Sport Integrity Australia to introduce an independent complaints handling process at all levels, from elite sports to the grassroots level.

It will enhance the protections for Australian sport and the community against evolving integrity issues affecting sport domestically and abroad, including harassment, bullying and child abuse, illicit drugs, manipulating outcomes and code of conduct issues.

The NST will continue to deliver faster, more cost-effective, independent and transparent sports dispute resolution services, with funding of $3.6 million to extend its pilot for a further 12 months to deal with and complete valid applications up until 18 March 2023.

Australia’s bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup will be boosted with an investment of $8.8 million, which will assist Rugby Australia to develop a compelling bid to host the competition.

It’s anticipated the World Cup, if held in Australia, would attract up to 200,000 visitors and generate more than $2 billion for the economy, while also creating almost 13,000 full-time equivalent jobs.