People with lung conditions must be prioritised in COVID-19 vaccination: LFA

Professor Christine Jenkins

People with serious lung conditions must be given priority for COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available in Australia, according to Lung Foundation Australia.

With the first phase of vaccination expected to start within weeks, the Lung Foundation is lobbying government to focus on people living with conditions such as lung cancer and  chronic lung diseases such as COPD who  are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Lung Foundation Australia Chair Professor Christine Jenkins  said there were several million Australians with lung disease or lung cancer who were at increased risk of a fatal case of COVID-19.

“When identifying priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination, we urge the government to consider prioritising those living with a respiratory illness, those who are immunocompromised, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities who are over-represented when it comes to lung disease,” she said.

“Our community is clearly among those who will continue to be most vulnerable to severe infection and illness from COVID-19.”

According to the Lung Foundation, other conditions that may put people at increased risk of COVID-19 include  bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The Federal Government has stated that priority groups for COVID-19 immunisation will include those with pre-existing, underlying medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

However its roadmap for rollout of vaccine shows that the first priority – Phase 1a – will target 678,000 people including, frontline health workers, quarantine and border workers and aged care and disability staff and residents. This is expected to use the Pfizer vaccine.

People with high risk medical conditions will have to wait until Phase 1b, which will provide 6.1 million people with the AstraZeneca vaccine. This group will cover anyone over 70 years old and two million younger adults with an underlying condition.

According to ATAGI, these at-risk medical conditions include, but are not limited to chronic lung disease, immunocompromised, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and severe obesity.

Phase 1b will also target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are over 55 and high-risk workers like emergency services personnel.

A recent review conducted by Monash University researchers found that patients with pre-existing COPD had more than three times higher risk of mortality and severe COVID-19.

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