The federal government is facing mounting criticism for Australia’s slow vaccine rollout after it was revealed only one in three staff had been vaccinated at an infected Melbourne aged-care home.
In addition, just 53 of the home’s 76 residents had received even a single dose of the vaccine.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said vaccination rates at the home demonstrated Canberra’s “go-slow culture” on aged care.
“The hindsight of almost 2000 Victorian aged-care residents contracting COVID-19, 655 resident deaths and more than 1600 aged-care workers infected was not enough to motivate the Morrison government into urgent action,” she said.
The chief executive of Arcare, which runs the home, Colin Singh, said no other staff or residents had returned positive results. Further testing is planned for Tuesday.
“We know this is an anxious time, but we ask that you please do not call asking for the results,” Mr Singh wrote to families of residents.
Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt again defended the government’s rollout, noting that 85 per cent of residents had been vaccinated.
But authorities are on high alert after the female worker at the Arcare home in Maidstone, in Melbourne’s west, was confirmed to have contracted COVID, despite receiving her first vaccine dose three weeks ago.
She showed no symptoms when she last worked at the home on May 27, but later tested positive.
The source of her infection remains a mystery.
Despite Mr Hunt’s elation that every aged-care home in Victoria had been visited and offered vaccinations, he urged those who had not taken up the opportunity to change their minds.
“It’s approximately 85 per cent of the population that has accepted and consented to the process, and it is an individual consent process,” he said in Canberra, after receiving his own second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I would reaffirm again, in the strongest possible way, we would encourage all those families who have elder Australians who are part of their network in aged care to consent. To allow them to be vaccinated.”
Mr Hunt said second doses for the Arcare facility were due this week, but have been brought forward to Monday.
He also said more than 9000 doses had been delivered to residents in disability care, plus 3000 to disability workers, through ‘in-reach’ programs of medical staff entering facilities.
Mr Hunt noted “many additional” doses would have been given to disability residents and workers through public channels such as GPs or mass vaccination hubs.
The Commonwealth has come under fire for vaccinating only small numbers of the 26,000 residents in disability care, with the program deemed an “abject failure” in a royal commission hearing.
Aged-care workers, residents vaccination plans
Aged care and disability workers and residents were classed among phase 1a of the vaccine rollout, the highest-priority group – to reflect them facing potentially the highest risk of COVID.
As of Sunday, more than 345,500 doses have been administered to residents in residential aged care and disability care, federal data shows.
The government’s first projection was for phase 1a to be completed by April. But many are still waiting.
Last Thursday, it was revealed that of the 598 facilities in Victoria, 569 had received a first dose, leaving people in 29 facilities completely unvaccinated.
In Sunday’s update, Mr Hunt said all Victorian homes, and 99 per cent of those nationwide, had now been been visited by vaccination services.
Mr Hunt’s latest figures meant at least 15,000 disability residents were also still waiting for their jabs.