Report slams aged care Covid vaccine rollout

A report from the Auditor-General criticises former government’s implementation plans.

Under the former Morrison Government, the Department of Health’s implementation of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to priority groups – such as aged care residents – was slow and ineffective, according to an Auditor-General’s report released this week.

“While 90 per cent of the eligible Australian population was vaccinated by the end of
2021, the planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout to priority groups was not as
effective,” reads the 112-page report.

This was due to the department underestimating “the complexity of administering in-reach services to the aged care and disability sectors.”

As a result, crucial targets were missed. Initially, the vaccine rollout to residential aged care facilities – scheduled to begin on 21 February – was to take six weeks. When this failed to happen, a revised target of 12 weeks was put in place instead.

As Australian Ageing Agenda reported in April 2021, “less than half of aged care homes nationally have received the Covid-19 vaccine in the first six weeks of the mass vaccination scheme.”

Source: Australian National Audit Office

The slow pace of the vaccine rollout across residential aged care homes was “due to Health initially contracting insufficient vaccine administration providers and other planning and implementation issues,” reads the report, which describes the delays as a “key risk”.

On top of the delays, there were other issues during the first six weeks of the rollout including two aged care residents receiving a quadruple dose of the vaccine and more than 120 doses binned due to refrigeration concerns.

In response to the Auditor-General’s findings, the office of the Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler released a statement. “The report has laid bare the multitude of failures of the former government’s vaccine rollout. The report found there was a lack of targets and, when there were targets, the rollout completely missed their deadlines, especially for priority populations.”

The statement continues: “The lack of planning was highlighted in the failures of the in-reach services to the aged care and disability sectors, where the complexity of administering was found to have been underestimated and insufficient providers were engaged initially.”

Pleas to be involved ignored

Tim Hicks

It’s a statement echoed by the Aged & Community Care Providers Association. “The aged care sector’s pleas through the Australian Aged Care Collaboration to be involved in designing an orderly implementation of vaccinations in residential aged care were ignored,” ACCPA’s general manager policy and advocacy Tim Hicks told AAA. “As key stakeholders to support vaccination for their residents, clients and particularly their staff, providers were not engaged in the design or planning of the rollout.”

The Auditor-General’s report into the handling of the vaccine rollout confirms that the Department of Health “failed through poor planning and a lack of consultation” to meet deadlines set to vaccinate priority groups early in 2021 – including aged care residents and the workforce, said Mr Hicks.

This prompted aged care providers to implement their own vaccine delivery programs, said Mr Hicks. “Once it was clear that initial plans were not working the sector worked hard to make the rollout work to protect the most vulnerable.”

Main image: Uniting Mirinjani resident Brian receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of the rollout in February 2021

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Tags: ACCPA, auditor-general, department of health, featured, mark butler, rollout, Tim Hicks, vaccine,

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