Confusion over aged care worker jab figure

·3-min read

More than one in four Victorian aged care residents have not received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine despite the state being in the grip of an outbreak.

Less than 10 per cent of staff in the sector across Australia have been vaccinated through federal government visits to nursing homes.

But in a stunning admission at a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday, Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck conceded the true number of aged care workers who were vaccinated was unknown.

Just 57 per cent of residents in Victoria and 64 per cent nationwide have received both doses more than three months after the rollout began.

Progress is painfully slow for people living in disability care with just 355 - or about 1.6 per cent - of more than 22,000 residents receiving both doses.

The number is higher among National Disability Insurance Scheme participants living in aged care with 2600 of 5000 residents fully vaccinated.

Aged care and disability are in the highest priority category which was due to be completed six weeks into the 110-day-old rollout.

While there are 366,000 people employed in aged care nationally, 32,823 have received both doses through the Commonwealth visits to nursing homes.

Senator Colbeck said providers would be directed to detail staff vaccination numbers from all sources to get a more accurate picture under a system starting on Friday.

Health Department associate secretary Caroline Edwards contradicted Health Minister Greg Hunt, who on Monday said there were only six aged care facilities still to be visited.

Ms Edwards said all but three of the remaining 21 would receive first doses in coming days with the remainder delayed because of gastro outbreaks, or in one case, no residents consenting to the jab.

Mr Hunt apologised for the error.

"The department's advice was correct and the misreading was my fault," he told parliament.

He said any facilities still waiting on first doses were not federally run.

"Our advice is expressed and clear and absolute from the department that all Commonwealth residential aged care facilities in Victoria have had a first dose."

A 99-year-old Melbourne aged care resident and two staff have tested positive for coronavirus, forcing four facilities into high alert or lockdown.

Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher clashed with the minister, who said whether the federal government was responsible for aged care staff vaccinations was not a "yes or no answer".

Senator Colbeck argued the rollout for staff was a joint responsibility between federal, state and territory governments.

The federal government is responsible for funding and regulating almost all aged care sites.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison later told parliament: "The government is indeed responsible for the national vaccination strategy, right across the country."

Victoria has announced a five-day vaccination blitz for all care workers with the state government to allow express lanes for disability and aged sector staff.

Of Australia's 910 coronavirus deaths, 685 have been aged care residents.

The Morrison government is also under pressure to explain why it lifted a ban on employees working at multiple facilities, which was imposed after Victoria's second wave.

Senator Colbeck defended the delay in reimposing a ban on aged care workers moving between multiple sites, saying it was unlawful to restrict people's work.

Despite Victoria's concerning outbreak, the rule wasn't reinstated until federal authorities designated Melbourne as a coronavirus hotspot on Thursday.

Victoria recorded three new locally acquired cases overnight with none linked to the aged care sector.

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