Residents at multiple regional aged care facilities across New South Wales have had their COVID-19 vaccinations postponed, despite expecting to be among the first to participate in the national vaccine rollout.

Key points:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been delayed in multiple aged care centres in Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and the Central Coast
  • Residents in regional and remote aged care facilities were supposed to be vaccinated this week as part of the national roll out
  • Vaccination has been postponed to accommodate vaccine delivery windows, consent arrangements and cold chain management.

For 88-year-old Marie McNamee the rollout of the vaccines to regional areas has been disappointing.

“It seems to be a bit of a mess,” Ms McNamee said.

Her aged care facility, Peninsula Village, at Umina Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast, was one of 240 across the country expecting to receive the vaccine in the first week of the national rollout.

Chief executive Shane Neaves said the rollout had been rescheduled multiple times and the administrators of the vaccinations, contracted by Health Care Australia, now wanted to come between Friday and Sunday.

“Saturday? We need to put additional staff on at an additional cost and usually … Saturdays and Sundays are family days,” Mr Neaves said.

“I politely said, ‘I think you’re better off coming Monday to Friday because there’s more staff here’.

It is not clear how many regional facilities across the country are having the vaccine rollout delayed, but the ABC has confirmed that this is the case across multiple centres in Wagga Wagga and Wollongong.

Man speaks with lady across table

Shane Neaves says moving the rollout to the weekend will come at a cost.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

Mr Neaves says he still does not know when the vaccine administrators will arrive, which is inconveniencing the 260 residents who are waiting to get the jab.

“They’re all keen to get it, they all want to do the right thing, but then it becomes an impasse and impacts on their lives.”

Wagga Wagga facility disappointed by delay

It is a frustration shared by the executive manager of the Forrest Centre in Wagga Wagga, Tania Tellus, who runs two aged care facilities in the regional centre.

Woman standing in front of sign

Tania Tellus manages two facilities in Wagga Wagga and says the rollout has been “disappointing”.(

ABC Riverina: Emily Doak

)

She said they were given 24 hours’ notice the vaccinations would be rescheduled.

“It’s been very disappointing for the residents,” she said.

“It’s been very problematic in terms of rostering and rescheduling people for different days, but I think overall we need to focus on the healthcare of the residents.”

Ms Tellus said she understood the logistical challenges the project faced in getting the vaccine to rural areas.

In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Health said the last-minute changes were to “accommodate vaccine delivery windows, consent arrangements at the residential aged care facility and cold chain management” — the system of transporting and storing the vaccines within the safe temperature.

The statement went on to say the department continually reviewed processes to ensure efficient and safe practices were upheld.

Vaccine rescheduling has flow-on effect

Ms McNamee hopes the vaccine rollout will not need to be rescheduled too many more times.

She said the changes were affecting residents’ medical appointments, which were difficult to rebook.

“I know with specialist [medical] appointments; we can’t get them every five minutes if we have to cancel.”

The Minister and Health Care Australia have been contacted for comment.

Vaccine rollout ‘a bit of a mess’ as multiple delays hit aged care facilities
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