Most residential aged care workers want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at their place of work but many are being told to source it from a general practitioner due to delays, aged care stakeholders have told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Delays in the government’s rollout of the vaccine have left most aged care facility staff unimmunised despite them being prioritised and included in the first phase of the program along with aged care residents (read more here).
The government projected the vaccine would reach 183,000 residents and 339,000 staff at more than 2,600 residential aged care facilities in first six weeks but at that milestone on 4 April less than half of aged care homes had received vaccines and almost all went to residents (read more here).
Stakeholders report that aged care staff across the country are being told to go to a local GP or GP respiratory clinics now to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
The CEO of New South Wales provider Peninsula Villages, Shane Neaves said most of his 300 staff members are waiting to receive their jabs.
“We managed to get 324 residents and some staff done in the first round. The second round, we had a few hiccups. They bought 306 vaccines over and were about 18 short, but we managed… to get them all done,” Mr Neaves told AAA.
“The alarming thing from my point of view is we have probably another 250 staff that still need to be vaccinated and… there’s no transparency or there’s no communication in regards to when that will happen and how it will happen,” he said.
Mr Neaves said staff have been told to go to their GPs.
“They’ve said that you can go to the GP, but to be quite honest… if the GP is only getting 50 doses a week, they’re going to give it to the patients first rather than my staff. So that’s an issue for us,” he said.
In South Australia, around 20 Southern Cross Care SA aged care workers have been left wondering when they will receive their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the United Workers Union said in a statement.
UWU director Carolyn Smith said workers are being left unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and with no advice on when they will be vaccinated.
“Others have been served up vaccine leftovers for their first jab, and they can’t even get their second jab on-site,” Ms Smith said.
“Even worse, when they try to find out where to go, they get the run-around and they are left in vaccine limbo,” she said.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler said members reached out to share their experiences of being told to get their dose from a GP.
“We know very few who actually received their vaccinations as was promised. We know that it’s happening in an ad hoc manner. We know that they’re being told to go to their GP and now we’ve seen that there are problems with the GPs getting access to the vaccine,” Ms Butler told AAA.
“We know that the majority of our members want to be vaccinated in their workplaces as promised,” she said.
Ms Butler said it is “completely unacceptable” for staff to be told to go to their GP to get their vaccine.
Ms Butler said the vaccine rollout for staff needs to be better planned and the government needs to be “absolutely clear on the communication”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told AAA on Tuesday that in-reach vaccination services would become available for aged care workers or they could choose to be vaccinated at a GP or GP respiratory clinic (read more here).
Staff pop-up vaccine clinics also behind schedule
Residential aged care staff have also been told they would be able to make bookings to have a vaccination at dedicated aged care worker clinics in early April, Ms Butler said.
“But we’ve got no further information on that,” Ms Butler said.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health said on Thursday information on the pop-up clinics would be available later this month.
“The Department of Health is also currently finalising arrangements with providers for dedicated aged care worker pop-up clinics for residential aged care workers expected to commence mid-April 2021,” the spokesperson told AAA.
“Details on the first of the pop-up locations and booking arrangements will be made available on the Australian Department of Health’s website from mid-April 2021,” the spokesperson said.
As of Wednesday 7 April, 125,260 vaccinations have been delivered in residential aged care where 1,000 aged care facilities have received first doses and 435 homes have received second doses, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt told media on Thursday.