The government has secured a workforce to give aged care residents and staff the COVID-19 vaccine at the facility where they live and work, the health department has told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The Federal Government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy, which was announced on 7 January, includes aged care residents and staff as a priority group in the first of five phases of the rollout.
Under the strategy, aged care residents and staff will receive the Pfizer vaccine from mid-to-late February, pending its approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“The Commonwealth has procured a workforce to administer vaccinations on-site at aged care facilities to both aged care residents and staff, at the same time where possible,” a spokesperson from the Department of Health told AAA.
While the COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary for all Australians, the department said state public health orders can require certain individuals to be vaccinated.
“States and territories are able to issue public health directions requiring individuals to be vaccinated, as is the case where individuals entering aged care facilities must be vaccinated against influenza, except if vaccination is not available to the person or they have a medical contraindication,” the spokesperson said.
The vaccine will be made available to all Australians who choose to be vaccinated when it is proven safe and effective, the spokesperson said.
“We are confident, given Australia’s current high vaccination coverage rates, Australians will take up a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in high numbers.”
Frontline health care staff and quarantine and border control workers are among other groups included in the first phase.
The second phase includes people aged 70 years and over, other healthcare workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55, people with an underlying medical condition and those working in high-risk roles such as police, fire and emergency services.
The third phase includes adults aged 50 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 – 54 and other critical and high-risk workers.
The final two phases include the remainder of the adult population and people aged under 18 if recommended.
View the government’s Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine national roll-out strategy here.
Deaths in Norway spark cause for caution
The Federal Government sought additional information from both Pfizer and the Norwegian medical regulator after reports last Sunday that about 30 aged care residents died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said during a doorstop interview on Sunday that they had already sought further information from Pfizer and the Norwegian medical regulator.
Work is still underway to assess the Pfizer vaccine, a spokesperson for Mr Hunt told AAA on Wednesday afternoon.
“The independent medicines and vaccines regulator, the TGA, is currently assessing the Pfizer vaccine and that work is on-going.
“Australia has arguably one of the best regulators in the world and the TGA conducts an independent process and will assess all data to ensure the vaccine is safe, prior to any approval (if given),” the spokesperson told AAA.
This story has been updated to include new information.