Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) Advice to National Cabinet on 25 March 2020
A statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee about school immunisation programs and dental services.
School Immunisation Programs
AHPPC noted that there are significant challenges to the delivery of school based immunisation programs, with school attendance falling and some potential school closures. AHPPC recommends that school based immunisation programs, with the exception of the delivery of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine, are paused at the current time.
Due to school closures in some states/territories, school-based immunisation against meningococcal disease will need a state/territory approach. Individuals who wish to access vaccines provided in school settings during this time remain able to access these vaccines through a pharmacy or their general practitioner.
Catch-up arrangements to ensure students who were not able to receive one or multiple school based immunisations either at school or through their GP will be implemented once schools re-open.
AHPPC noted guidelines from the Australian Dental Association (ADA) outlining additional infection control precautions to manage coronavirus risks in dental practices as well as management practices for: (1) patients at risk of COVID-1 who require urgent dental care; (2) patients confirmed with COVID-1 who require urgent dental care; and (3) patients diagnosed with COVID-19, after a dental appointment.
AHPPC noted that:
- Should access to urgent dental care cease entirely, this would place a burden on medical primary care and emergency services.
- Restrictions can be implemented gradually to defer dental treatments based on urgency and need, which would allow for additional infection prevention control measures to be implemented to mitigate the risk of infection to dentists (including reducing aerosol-generating procedures and the need for P2 masks).
- There may rarely be a situation in which a patient with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection has a significant dental emergency which requires treatment and cannot be delayed until they are out of quarantine or isolation.
AHPPC recommends adopting the ‘Managing COVID-19 Guidelines’ published by the ADA and implementing a triage system for dental practice. AHPPC recommends that all dental practices implement level 3 restrictions as outlined in ADA’s guidance. That is, dentists should only perform dental treatments that do not generate aerosols, or where treatment generating aerosols is limited. All routine examinations and treatments should be deferred.