As NSW struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19, one feature distinguishes this outbreak from last year’s devastating experience in Victoria: fewer aged care residents have contracted the virus and fewer are becoming seriously ill and dying.
This change is due to one single factor: the success of COVID-19 vaccines.
While the political battle over lockdowns and the vaccine rollout rages, and as millions suffer through endless weeks of lockdown, the saving of the lives of vulnerable older Australians deserves mention.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy told HelloCare it’s “tremendous” that we are seeing far fewer deaths in aged care during this outbreak due to the high numbers of residents vaccinated.
There is also improving news on the aged care worker vaccination front.
Booys says, “The government’s move to make it mandatory for aged care workers to be vaccinated makes good sense.”
There are currently 47 active COVID-19 cases in residential aged care, and two active cases among home care clients.
This compares with last year’s outbreak in Victoria, in which more than 650 aged care residents died.
The worst outbreak of the current NSW outbreak has occurred at the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution’s Hawkins Masonic Village, where eleven residents and three staff have tested positive.
In a statement, RFBI revealed that a staff member tested positive after working at the Village on Wednesday 4 August, became ill on Friday and was tested on Sunday, returning a positive result.
RBFI immediately activated its special response team and notified authorities and staff were tested that day.
RBFI has implemented daily testing in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Staff from other RBFI homes have stepped in to help while “a significant proportion” of Hawkins Masonic Village staff carry out their periods in isolation.
Booy told HelloCare older people right across society should be vaccinated in the same way aged care residents have been.
“It’s really important in communities throughout the cities of Australia for people to look out for their elders,” he said.
Friends and family should help older Australians attend vaccination appointments, when they need help, and those in their 50s and 60s should themselves ensure they are vaccinated so that they don’t pass the virus on to their elderly parents.
With millions under lockdown and COVID-19 numbers still rising, these are dark days. It’s important to recognise the bright spots when they shine.