COVID-19 in the aged care sector continues to dominate the news with the Government pledging to ensure aged care residents are safe, even as figures show that just 40 percent of aged care workers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Aged care workers have until September 17 to receive at least one vaccine dose or they will be unable to work, creating the risk of workforce shortages in a sector already short of workers.
A spokesman for Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said about 25,000 workers were expected to be vaccinated by aged care employers under the process.
“The Government is working with the sector on protocols for visitors to aged care facilities and new residents moving into them too,” he said.
Coastlink, an aged care and disability service provider, has started its vaccination program with already 49 staff and a small number of clients living independently receiving their first dose of Pfizer vaccine.
“While the Australian Government has mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for all residential aged care workers, this has not yet been extended to include all disability and aged care support workers at this stage,” Coastlink CEO, John Davis, said.
“While workers in the aged care and disability sectors have been prioritised in the vaccine rollout, we hope to see the widespread availability of vaccines for anyone within this space in the near future,“ he said.
One million more Pfizer vaccines landed in Australia on Monday, July 19, and COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce commander, Lieutenant General John Frewen, said they would be distributed across the country on a proportional per capita basis.
He said aged care centres and people over 60 were a priority.
The Primary Health Network could not answer the Chronicle’s questions about the supply of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine on the Central Coast, or the timeframe for the vaccine rollout to be completed locally.
Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride, wants to see a quicker rollout of vaccines on the Central Coast through pharmacies.
At present, vaccines are available only at Gosford and Wyong hospitals, the Erina hub or through GPs.
Central Coast residents can attend the newly opened mass vaccination centre in Belmont, however, all Covid precautions and masks are mandatory and they would not be permitted to go elsewhere other than the centre.
“Community pharmacies have been ready to rollout the vaccine for months but now they’re being forced to wait because of the Federal Government’s supply issues,” she said.
Following the National Cabinet Meeting on Friday, July 16, the Prime Minister said that they would start bringing more pharmacies into the vaccine program, but only when they had enough doses to go around.
“It’s frustrating to see the rollout being delayed in our region yet again.
“Coasties are already struggling to get access to vaccines, we’re facing a month long lockdown because of this latest outbreak and yet the Government doesn’t see fit to help us get vaccinated.
About 1,200 pharmacies across NSW have already been deemed suitable to administer vaccines by the Federal Government and Pharmacy Guild spokesperson for the Central Coast, Rob King, believes they should have been activated a long time ago.
“The rollout has been slow and should have included all community pharmacies from the outset,” he said.
“More sites delivering vaccinations means more people are protected and pharmacies are the most accessible health destinations.”
A report released on Monday, July 19, by the McKell Institute backed NSW Labor’s calls for greater involvement of community pharmacies in the vaccination program.
The report found that accelerating the rollout of vaccines into pharmacies could help the country reach its vaccination target of 80 percent up to two months faster than on current projections, avoiding $12.3B of economic costs.
McBride is calling on the Government to supply pharmacies on the Coast now to keep locals safe.
“In a community where one in five people are aged over 65, this is urgent,” she said.