The rollout of the COVID vaccine to people living and working in aged care homes has got off to a slow start with the program administering just over a third of the projected vaccinations in its first week.

The government said 30,000 aged care residents and staff at 240 aged care facilities would likely receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the first week of a six-week rollout, which officially kicked off on 22 February.

However, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt told a press conference on Monday that 10,070 aged care residents at over 150 aged care facilities had received the COVID-19 jab as of Sunday evening.

Mr Hunt did not provide an answer to Australian Ageing Agenda’s questions about the cause of the delay in the rollout or whether the program was still on track to complete aged care vaccinations in six weeks.

The delay comes after a nurse identified that two Queensland residents at St Vincent’s Care Services received a quadruple dose of the virus from a doctor, who was later identified as not completing the required training modules.

“The doctor wasn’t trained. And so as a consequence of that, there will be a medical referral in relation to the doctor,” Mr Hunt said.

The CEO of Healthcare Australia, which is responsible for the aged care rollout in Queensland was also stood down following the incident.

Greg Hunt

There were also more than 120 doses of the vaccine thrown out last week following overnight refrigeration concerns at St Vincent’s Care Services in Werribee, Victoria.

Mr Hunt told a doorstop interview on Sunday “it is highly likely that the vaccines’ integrity had been maintained, but because of the refrigeration it was unable to determine absolutely that the temperatures had been maintained.”

The doses thrown out represented 0.1 per cent of the first week’s vaccines, which is “vastly below” projections of unused doses, he said.

Mr Hunt said the capacity to upscale is on its way and will bring progressive increases in vaccinations.

Aged care providers Uniting NSW ACT and TLC Healthcare told AAA last week that the vaccination rollout was going well at their facilities (read our story here).

In total, 33,700 people across Australia received a COVID-19 vaccine in the first week of the rollout.

More vaccines arrive

On Sunday, 300,000 AstraZeneca COVID vaccines arrived and are undergoing batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Mr Hunt said.

They will be released for use by next Monday, if not earlier, with 200,000 doses going to the states to speed up the rollout to quarantine and frontline healthcare workers, Mr Hunt said.

AAA asked Mr Hunt how many of the AstraZeneca doses would go to aged care residents and staff, but he did not provide any details on this in his response.

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