23 June 2023

Elders weigh in on antiviral campaign for First Nations people

| Gail Eastaway
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Antivirals are being promoted to help fight Covid-19

A campaign to promote the use of antivirals to fight COVID-19 has started in SE NSW. Photo: COORDINAIRE.

A new campaign running throughout South East NSW is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to check in with their doctor or AMS about their eligibility for COVID-19 antiviral treatments.

Aboriginal Health Community Engagement Consultant with COORDINARE – Southeastern NSW PHN Terry Hill said the organisation recently met with local elders to talk about prevention and treatment options for COVID-19.

“We yarned with Aboriginal elders and young people across South Eastern NSW and the majority were not aware of these potentially lifesaving COVID-19 medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS),” Terry said.

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Elias Rees, a videographer with Beyond Empathy, said: “I didn’t know anything about antivirals until today which I’m a bit annoyed about because I could have gone and gotten some when I had COVID a couple of weeks ago because I felt like crap!”

Aunty Lynette Goodwin said she took multiple medications each day.

“So what’s another tablet if that is going to help me?” she said.

Terry added: “We need to get the word out that this product is available, especially for our elders. We’ve created a couple of videos to share with communities with the message that eligible people can get COVID-19 antivirals after speaking to a doctor, but they need to act fast. Making a plan now will help save valuable time if you test positive for COVID-19.”

By reducing how severe the illness is, people are less likely to need to go to hospital, or develop breathing difficulties and need assistance with oxygen or intensive care treatment.

COORDINARE’s Medical Director Dr. Katherine Michelmore, said: “COVID-19 can be very serious for adults in high-risk groups, even when they are fully vaccinated. Antiviral treatments, taken as tablets or capsules, help to stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe – but they need to be started early after testing positive, within five days of developing symptoms.”

Antiviral medicines target the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 to prevent it infecting healthy cells in your body and multiplying. This helps stop the spread of the virus inside your body and helps your immune system to fight off the infection.

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COVID-19 antivirals do not work against other viruses like the flu. There are different antivirals for the flu and antivirals are not a substitute for vaccination. Vaccination is still the best protection against COVID-19.

If your doctor decides you are eligible for antivirals, they will organise a prescription for you. This can be sent as an e-script to your phone or to your pharmacy, or could be collected as a paper copy. It’s recommended you ask your pharmacy to arrange home delivery for your medication or ask someone to collect it on your behalf.

Eligible people include:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with one or more risk factors for severe disease
  • Australians over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • Anyone over 70 years
  • Those aged 60-69 with at least one risk factor for severe disease
  • Immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or an older person, or live with chronic disease or disability that puts you at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, please talk to your doctor now about your COVID-19 treatment options. Your doctor can help determine your exact eligibility.

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