News in brief: Drop in rates of lower respiratory disease in 2020; Vaping sales restrictions come into effect; RACP calls for urgent action on COVID-19 vaccination for people with disability

Wednesday, 6 Oct 2021

Drop in rates of lower respiratory disease in 2020

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are in the top five leading causes of death for 2020 but rates have dropped since 2019.

The latest mortality data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found deaths due to chronic lower respiratory diseases including asthma, emphysema and ILD decreased from 25.9% in 2019 to 21.3% in 2020.

Influenza and pneumonia mortality dropped by 45.8% from 2019 to 2020.

There was also a decrease of more than 20% in influenza and pneumonia as an associated cause of death (where it was not the underlying cause of death).

“Many acute respiratory diseases (such as influenza and some types of pneumonia) are transmitted via droplets, so measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as increased personal hygiene and social distancing can also reduce the spread of other communicable diseases,” the ABS report said.

COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death in 2020.

Vaping sales restrictions come into effect

Restrictions on nicotine e-cigarettes from 1 October mean that vapers will now require a valid prescription to purchase them from either a pharmacist or from an online supplier.

The Lung Foundation Australia has welcomed the tightening in regulation, saying that was a step to help prevent recreational vape usage among young people.

“It’s crucial to distinguish between smoking cessation and recreational vaping, the latter of which is gripping young Australians. Rigorous processes need to be put in place to regulate the sale of flavoured e-cigarette products. Young people will continue to be able to access these so called ‘harmless’ products that are unregulated and unrestricted,” said CEO Mark Brooke.

“We are not, in any way, seeking to demonise or downplay how difficult it is to quit tobacco and nicotine-based products. However, it’s important that Australians are aware that nicotine e-cigarettes remain unapproved as a smoking cessation tool. This means they have not been proven to be safe or effective.

RACP calls for urgent action on COVID-19 vaccination for people with disability

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has serious concerns that people living with disability have not been prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations, as states prepare to ease restriction in a matter of days.

The RACP has repeatedly raised concerns about the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines to people with disability and the need to urgently prioritise this group. Disability care residents and staff were in the highest priority group for vaccination yet only 67% of residents and 59% disability screened workers are vaccinated.

People with disability are at increased risk of adverse outcomes if they are infected by COVID-19. A study in the UK reported that 58% of COVID-19 deaths were among people who had a disability, whilst another UK study found people with intellectual disability were eight times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the general population.

Dr Jacqueline Small, RACP President-elect and developmental paediatrician said: “The DRC report that people living with disability were deprioritised in the vaccine rollout is deeply concerning. We have had months to get this right. Now we are days away from states easing restrictions with less than half of NDIS participants aged 16 years and over fully vaccinated – that is really troubling.

“A coordinated connected response with inclusion of people with disability, local health districts, primary health networks and non-government organisations is needed urgently.”

report released by the national organisation Children and Young People with Disability Australia has shown that over 70% of respondents experienced difficulties in securing vaccinations.


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