Communicating about COVID

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TGA reveals how health professionals can, and cannot, communicate with patients about their COVID-19 vaccination services

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has released guidance explaining how health professionals can lawfully provide communications about COVID-19 vaccines available at their pharmacy or practice.

According to the TGA advice, any party can create their own content to promote COVID-19 vaccines, provided:

  • the content is consistent with current Commonwealth health messaging regarding the national COVID-19 vaccination program, including content found on the Australian Government Department of Health website; and
  • the content does not contain:
    • any reference to the trade name, sponsor name or active ingredient or any other information that would identify the vaccine (e.g. Pfizer or AstraZeneca)
    • any statement, or implication comparing different COVID-19 vaccines (or comparing vaccines with treatments such as medicines)
    • statements to the effect that COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause harm or have no side effects
    • any statement regarding COVID-19 vaccines that is false or misleading

“Commonwealth health messaging means material that is published on Australian Government websites (including social media),” the advice states.

“This material is updated in accordance with changes to Government policy about the vaccine program. The onus is on the party preparing the communications to ensure the message is based on current Government messaging.”

The TGA said health providers could offer rewards to fully vaccinated patients.

“Any party can offer valuable consideration (cash or other rewards) to people who have been fully vaccinated under the Government’s national COVID-19 vaccination program”, subject to a range of conditions listed on the TGA advice page.

An example of a complaint rewards offer by a health clinic or pharmacy was provided:

Uptown Medical Centre and Pharmacy publishes a Facebook post offering a free health check to anyone who has been fully vaccinated under the national COVID-19 vaccination program. The offer includes a statement that it is only valid for vaccinations undertaken on the advice of a health practitioner.

The TGA emphasised that the information in the guidance “does not apply [bolded in the TGA statement] to information shared between a doctor, pharmacist or nurse and their patient during consultation or treatment.

“For example, if a patient asks their doctor during a consultation about the relative merits of each vaccine and which one is suitable for them, the doctor can advise the patient without risk of breaching the advertising laws.”

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