82% of aged care residents fully vaccinated yet many workers still without a COVID-19 jab

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says 82% of residents in 2,566 aged care facilities have now been fully vaccinated, with 86.4% having received at least one dose.

In contrast, the Department of Health said of the 275,907 total aged care workers nationwide, to date 51% have received one dose and 32% had received both doses of a vaccine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on 2 July that a COVID-19 vaccination would be mandatory to work in aged care facilities from 17 September.

However, it has yet to be made mandatory for home care workers – even though home care providers must report on their number of vaccinated staff from this week – with estimates that as few as 5% of workers are fully vaccinated.

The Department maintained it had made aged care workers a priority through all primary care sites including GPs, as well as state or territory mass vaccination sites, to receive a jab.

“From August, additional in-reach clinics and hubs will be delivered by vaccine workforce providers for residential aged care workers and residents not yet vaccinated,” a Health Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday evening.

“All residential aged care workers, irrespective of age, can receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as a priority.”

Cast your mind back to this time last year as the second surge of COVID-19 virus gathered pace in Victoria. There had been over 2,000 cases of COVID-19 among residents in aged care facilities since the start of the pandemic and 685 deaths.

Mr Hunt said the total prevention of aged care deaths and the very low numbers of infections in aged care during the Delta outbreak in NSW despite rising case numbers was proof that vaccinations were reducing the chances of infection and saving lives.

 “The difference is just inconceivable,” he said. “There couldn’t be stronger proof that vaccination saves lives and protects lives.

“It significantly reduces, but doesn’t prevent, your chances of catching or transmitting the disease. Overwhelmingly, it reduces the numbers of cases and it’s absolutely clear that it provides enormous protection for everybody, particularly among the most vulnerable. The real world evidence from last year in Victoria compared with this year in Sydney could not be more stark.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccines have been found to reduce the chances of hospitalisation and death by at least 90%. Even after one dose of AstraZeneca, the chances of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 are reduced by 70%.

Disappointing then that home care workers are not also being prioritised.