It’s hoped that the COVID-19 booster rollout will have reached almost all of Australia’s 2,700 residential aged care facilities by the weekend.
“It does now look that we will have close to 100 per cent of aged care homes by the end of this week,” chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia Paul Sadler told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The encouraging news follows criticism earlier this week of the Federal Government missing its end-of-January deadline to provide COVID booster shots to all eligible aged care residents. Initially, the booster rollout was to run from November to March. “Then, of course, the Omicron wave hit,” said Mr Sadler.
The decision by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to reduce the waiting period between vaccine jabs from six months to three further compressed the booster program timeframe.
While figures have been released showing the number of facilities to have hosted booster clinics, data detailing the number of individual residents who have received their third vaccination shot is scarce.
“The feedback we’ve been getting from the Department of Health up until a fortnight ago was that around 80 per cent of residents, on average, were getting the booster shots when the clinics came in,” said Mr Sadler. He added: “There will never be a 100 per cent take-up of boosters among aged care residents – but we do need to get above 80 per cent.”
AAA put in a request to the Department of Health for an exact figure and received the following reply: “More than 99 per cent have received or been scheduled for a visit for booster vaccinations by 31 January.”
Aged care homes have been especially hard hit by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 – with the latest data showing active outbreaks at 1,261 facilities across the country. And it’s those residents ineligible for the booster shot, or who have chosen to reject the jab who account for the highest number of deaths. Since the beginning of the year, more than 400 aged care residents have died because of COVID.
To protect aged care residents, the Federal Government has strongly urged all aged care workers in NSW, the ACT and Queensland to get a booster shot as soon as they are eligible.
It has been compulsory for residential aged care workers to have a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition for working in aged care homes since 17 September 2021.