The Aged Care Services Minister says just over 31,000 aged care workers nationally are fully vaccinated, but the government is not sure exactly how many have had the jab.
- The government is now asking aged care providers to tell them which staff have had the COVID vaccine
- Richard Colbeck says people’s occupation is not recorded when they get the jab
- He says the government is “comfortable” with the vaccine rollout in aged care
Richard Colbeck said that was the number of people the government “was aware of”, suggesting the total number could be greater.
He said the government did not have an exact figure because there were a number of different ways people could access a vaccine and, until now, aged care providers were not obliged to report to the government which of their staff have or have not had the vaccine.
“We’re asking the aged care providers who hold the data to report that information back to us,” Senator Colbeck said.
“At this point we don’t have that consolidated and so we can make it easy for aged care providers … we’ve asked them to report that alongside their flu vaccination data.”
Senator Colbeck earlier said the number was just under 40,000 but was later grilled about the figure in Senate Estimates.
“Based on the data that I have here, that’s 38,708 have received the first dose, and 31,610 have received their second dose,” he told the committee.
“I don’t have the state breakdown.”
Labor Senator Katy Gallagher asked whether those vaccinations were as a result of “left over” vaccine doses sent to facilities for residents being used on staff members.
“That’s correct,” Senator Colbeck replied.
Health officials then updated the figures again, saying around 32,800 staff had been vaccinated in the facilities where they work, with a further 1,887 receiving vaccines through other hubs.
Victoria’s outbreak, which now includes two aged care workers and a 99-year-old resident, has put a renewed focus on the progress of the vaccine rollout in nursing homes.
Senator Colbeck said while vaccinations were recorded in the government systems when people got the jab at their GP or at a Pfizer clinic, occupation is not recorded at those appointments.
“It doesn’t go to the level of granularity that details where you work,” he said.
Senator Colbeck disagreed that the government should have put reporting mechanisms in place earlier.
He also defended the vaccine rollout to staff, saying the government was encouraging providers to organise “in reach” programs to speed up and oversee the vaccination of their staff.
Aged care residents and workers were identified by health experts as the priority group, along with frontline workers, for vaccination because of the vulnerability of residents.
But as the outbreak gained pace in Victoria it was revealed that some aged care homes had not received their first dose of the vaccine.
That has now been reversed, with the government directing extra doses to the state to make sure all aged care homes had received doses last week.
“Everybody would’ve like to have done it faster but logistically we’ve done it as quickly as we possibly could.”
Senator Colbeck said any decision to make the vaccine mandatory for aged care workers was a “serious question” and depended on whether the vaccine prevented transmission.
Senate Estimates also heard that fewer than 2 per cent of people living in residential disability care were fully vaccinated.
Health department officials said about 335 people had received both doses of the vaccine and about 3,500 had received at least one — out of more than 22,000 living in residential disability care.
Health representatives said the figure did not include vaccinations given to people with a disability living in aged care.
‘A car crash that was avoidable’
In response, Labor has accused the government of being negligent and said it was unacceptable that some workers and residents were still not vaccinated.
Opposition spokesman Bill Shorten told Channel Nine the situation was “heartbreaking”.
“This is a car crash which was avoidable,” he said.
“My hometown of Melbourne, my home state of Victoria, is locked down, and yet there’s not enough vaccination being done and aged- care workers are being asked to put themselves at risk.
“It is a real problem.”
Victoria’s second wave left 820 people dead with data revealing that 95 per cent of national COVID aged care deaths happened in Victoria.
Nationally, 910 people have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.