COVID-19 and MS

These pages contain information about COVID-19, vaccinations and MS as general advice only. The information provided on these pages should not be taken as individual medical advice. Your medical team (neurologist, MS nurse, GP) is still your primary source of contact for any concerns or specific questions you may have about COVID-19, vaccinations and timing of MS treatments and other medicines. For general queries about MS, please contact your state or territory MS Member Organisation, or the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.

If you test positive for COVID-19 please contact your medical team for further advice.

Latest Updates:

New advice for COVID-19 vaccine boosters has been issued by ATAGI on the 1 September 2023. The full statement can be found here. The recommendations include:

  • ATAGI recommends that all adults aged ≥ 75 years should receive an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine dose if 6 months have passed since their last dose.
  • ATAGI advises the following groups should consider an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine dose if 6 months have passed since their last dose, after discussion with their healthcare provider:
  • All adults aged 65 to 74 years, and/or
  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years with severe immunocompromise
  • Within the above groups, an additional 2023 COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be of most benefit for people who:
  • Have no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection (and therefore are unlikely to have protection from hybrid immunity),
  • Have medical comorbidities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, or disability with significant or complex health needs, or
  • Reside in a residential aged care facility.
  • ATAGI continues to encourage all adults who were recommended to have a COVID-19 vaccine dose in February 2023, and who have not yet had one, to receive a vaccine dose as soon as possible (refer to Table below).
  • For younger people or older adults without severe immunocompromise who have already had a dose in 2023, no further doses are currently recommended. Their baseline risk of severe illness is low if they have already been vaccinated, and particularly if they have also had prior infection. Therefore, a further 2023 dose will offer little additional benefit even if it has been more than 6months since their last dose.
  • ATAGI continues to note that while there is minimal benefit from having a COVID-19 vaccine dose too soon after infection, current SARS-CoV-2 testing rates have dropped significantly, so from a practical perspective it is challenging for many individuals to know if or when they last had an infection. Where previous infection details are unknown, it is appropriate to proceed with a first 2023 dose, and an additional dose for eligible people outlined in this update.
  • A person may be vaccinated earlier than the recommended 6-month interval where considered appropriate, such as before starting an immunosuppressant, before overseas travel or if someone cannot reschedule vaccination easily (such as in an outreach or in reach vaccination program).
  • There are no additional safety concerns relating to the use of additional doses in older adults and people at high risk of severe SARS CoV-2.

ATAGI 2023 COVID-19 Booster Advice – first and additional dose*

2023 COVID-19 booster dose (February 2023 guidance)

Additional 2023 COVID-19 booster dose (September 2023 guidance)

Age

At risk#

No risk factors

At risk#

No risk factors

<5 years

Not recommended

Not recommended

Not recommended

Not recommended

5-17 years

Consider

Not recommended

Not recommended

Not recommended

18-64 years

Recommended

Consider

Consider if severe immunocompromise^

Not recommended

65-74 years

Recommended

Recommended

Consider

Consider

≥75 years

Recommended

Recommended

Recommended

Recommended


ANTI-VIRAL MEDICATIONS
Commencing 11 July 2022, the eligibility criteria for the two approved COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments, Paxlovid and Lagevrio were expanded in Australia. From 1 July 2023, eligibility for Paxlovid under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was expanded further to include people aged 50 to 59. Australians in this age group with only one risk factor for severe illness – instead of two – will now get access to PBS-subsidised Paxlovid. See below for more information.

Medicare will now cover a telehealth consultation by a GP for the purpose of prescribing COVID-19 antivirals. This temporary measure will cover a longer consultation by phone to ensure antivirals are safely prescribed by doctors and ensure as many people as possible can access these treatments. Millions of Australians are now eligible to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), but they need to start taking the medication within five days of COVID-19 symptoms.

 

PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR SEVERELY IMMUNOCOMPROMISED:
The TGA has authorised the use of AstraZeneca’s Evusheld™ (tixagevimab and cilgavimab). Evusheld™ is a new COVID-19 protective measure (monoclonal antibodies) designed to prevent COVID-19 infection in vulnerable and immunocompromised individuals who may not mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. There may be a small portion of people with MS who fall in to this category. For more information, click here.

As of 27 January 2023, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has recommended that Evusheld not be placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at this time, however, this might be revised in the future. Access will remain through current schemes.

Watch some specialist MS healthcare workers talk about MS and COVID-19 preventative medications and antiviral treatments – here.

Past ATAGI COVID-19 statements can be accessed here.

The Australian government has released a National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023 which can be accessed here.

Last updated: 04/09/2023

How Australia contributes to international MS and COVID-19 knowledge

An international MS group, led by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) is gathering information about the pandemic and MS from all over the world. To access the latest information, please click here.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination roll-out remain global health priorities, collecting, sharing and analysing data from all around the world is more important than ever. This data sharing initiative means we will gain faster and more accurate insights into COVID-19 and MS, to help people with MS and their healthcare teams make evidence-based decisions on how to manage their condition during the pandemic, how to manage the illness if they develop a COVID-19 infection and how to manage the COVID-19 vaccination process.

For more information about how the MS global data sharing initiative works, and how the data is used, please click here.

The unique aspects of MS and specific medications make it difficult to give broad and general advice. If you still have questions that are not answered in these resources, please contact your neurologist, MS healthcare team or your GP. Together we can build on the extensive information we already have gained through the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to help people and families living with MS to live their best lives possible as we navigate this new world. 

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COVID-19 and MS