An Illawarra aged care provider say there has been a breakthrough in the bungled rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for the region’s 4,500 workers.

Key points:

  • Less than five per cent of Illawarra and Shoalhaven’s 4500 aged care workers have received their COVID-19 vaccine
  • Major providers have described the program as a ‘debacle’
  • Staff will now be able to receive vaccinations as part of the state government hospital rollout

Despite being classified in the highest priority 1a group, less than five per cent of the aged care workforce in Illawarra and the Southern Highlands has received the vaccine, in an eight-week delay described as a “debacle”.

However there was finally some good news yesterday, with local aged care centres receiving permission to join the state government’s hospital rollout, designed to speed up delivery of the vaccines.

Chief executive of aged care provider Warrigal, Mark Sewell, said it was hoped 70-80 per cent of staff would be vaccinated in the next couple of months.

He said detailed planning for the delivery would start next week.

“Hopefully the week after the 3rd of May we will have staff on a rotational basis being booked into the Wollongong and Shoalhaven hospitals.

“And we’ll start to get them vaccinated. If they are under 50 they will get the Pfizer; if they are over 50 they will get the AstraZeneca.

‘Debacle’

Mr Sewell, whose network employs 1500 staff across Illawarra and the Southern Highlands, said the rollout to date had been disappointing.

“Most of the deaths in Australia were in aged care homes and it was actually staff who were infected unknowingly and spread it to the residents.

“So the government knew staff were a priority, but there has been no clear rollout plan.” 

Bungled plans

Mr Sewell, who is also the regional chair of national advocacy group Aged and Community Services, said the plan for staff vaccination had changed three times in the past two months.

“It’s really been awful.

“Originally the staff were to be done with the residents,” he said. “That plan was stopped, and they were to go and get their own vaccines from GPs — and then that was stopped because 75 per cent of our workforce is under 50 and they shouldn’t really get the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

He said the small number of staff that had got the vaccine had been lucky to receive leftover vaccines.

Residents top priority

Meanwhile all residents of Warrigal facilities in the area are expected to be vaccinated by the middle of May, after the first providers were replaced by the defence force.

“The original consultants and contractors the government engaged were unable to do the program and to do it well, so the ADF was called in,” said Mr Sewell.

“And they have actually been turning up and running the whole vaccination program at some of our sites.

“It is very reassuring — the resident vaccination program has gone quite well.”

Thousands of aged care workers set to finally receive vaccine after months-long ‘debacle’
Source:
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