Rush to vaccinate 60,000 aged care workers before stepping down in THREE WEEKS despite being eligible for the jab months ago
- Elderly care workers must have received at least one dose of vaccine by September 17
- More than 60,000 workers are still unvaccinated as deadline approaches
- The shortage has led to fears that aged care facilities will soon be short of staff
- Industry workers have been on Pfizer’s priority list for months
The vaccination of aged care workers across Australia must be completed within three weeks as a deadline looms for the sector to avoid a chronic staff shortage.
In June, the federal government set September 17 as the date by which all elderly care workers should have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
But with three weeks to go, more than 60,000 residential aged care workers remained unvaccinated, the Brisbane Times reported.
This figure is despite those in the industry taking precedence over the Pfizer vaccine for months, regardless of their age.
With three weeks to go until the September 17 vaccination deadline, more than 60,000 residential aged care workers remained unvaccinated
Pictured: Geriatric care workers leave a Melbourne facility. The September 17 mandatory vaccination deadline has sparked fears of understaffing in Australia’s aged care facilities
Figures show that 78 percent of the more than 273,000 residential aged care workers have had their first dose of the vaccine, including nurses, personal caregivers, administrative staff, cooks, cleaners and other personnel.
However, lower vaccination rates in certain parts of the country and individual facilities have raised fears of staff shortages once the mandatory vaccination deadline has been met.
In the North Coast of NSW and the Nerang region on the Gold Coast, only 40 to 40 percent of staff have received a single dose, while in some residential facilities less than 20 percent of staff have been vaccinated.
Exemptions under public health regulations may need to be granted by states and territories to maintain staffing levels, said Gerard Hayes, the national president of the Health Services Union.
The federal government had also changed the hours that aged care workers on student visas are allowed to work to address a potential staff shortage.
“The government is allowing student visa holders who work in aged care to take extra hours and this will create a significant additional workforce,” said federal health minister Greg Hunt.
Aged care workers with a student visa are allowed to work more hours to cover a possible staff shortage due to the vaccination deadline
His colleague, aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, said the government is working to ensure every worker in the sector has access to a vaccine by September 17.
The health department’s site lists on-site clinics in workplaces, specialty vaccination centers, and roaming clinics within reach as options for aged care workers.
Residential aged care workers can also receive priority from GPs, Commonwealth vaccination clinics, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service or pharmacy. Find a clinic through the fitness check.
Mr Colbeck also indicated that rapid antigen testing was being used at facilities in Greater Sydney to provide additional protection for residents and employees.
“Scott Morrison needs to explain what it means for aged care workers who cannot be vaccinated on Sept. 17,” said Shadow Minister for Aged Care and Health Mark Butler.