Feb 25, 2021

Vaccine rollout in aged care behind schedule

A nurse checking blood preasure of a senior woman during lockdown.

The vaccine rollout to aged care homes is behind schedule with only 26 aged care homes receiving vaccinations in the first two days of the rollout, despite more than 240 homes having been scheduled to receive them by Friday.

Shane Neaves, chief executive Peninsula Villages on the NSW Central Coast, told HelloCare that he received a call last weekend to confirm the vaccine would be administered at the home starting on Tuesday morning and spanning three days.

His staff had already been busy gaining consent from the home’s 300 residents, 50% of whom require their next of kin or responsible person to sign for them.

But then on Tuesday morning at 8.30 am Neaves received a call to say the vaccine team would not be coming that day due to “logistical issues”, and they would be coming on Wednesday instead.

But that evening Neaves received a call to say the vaccine team wouldn’t be there until Thursday, and then late last night, Neaves was informed the vaccine would be rolled out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Neave said weekends are times families get together, so it wasn’t so suitable to have the vaccinations going on then. He said he also wasn’t prepared to cover the costs of paying staff weekend penalty rates because of the rollout’s “scheduling issues”.

Now Neaves is waiting to hear when they will be scheduled in.

The delays are also affecting several other aged care providers on the Central Coast, so Neaves said his “frustration is multiplied by six or seven”.

A number of homes were told the vaccinations would be administered on the weekend, which Neaves believes is a way for them to “catch up” on the rollout schedule.

“The residents are very keen to get it,” Neaves said, but the delays have impacted them.

Shopping buses on Tuesday and Thursday were cancelled as they awaited the vaccine rollout, and a resident who turned 104 on Wednesday “waited and waited to find out if the vaccines were coming before she went out”.

As the CEO, Neaves now has to tell residents he doesn’t know when the vaccine rollout will begin.

Reports of needles not turning up, of vaccines being sent to the wrong aged care home and residents waiting all day for the vaccine, only to not have it turn up, have also been reported today.

Error: not acceptable

This morning, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the vaccine dose error was “clearly not acceptable.

Yesterday Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed that two aged care residents – an 88-year-old man and a 94-year-old woman – had been given an incorrect dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by a doctor who had not undertaken the vaccine administration training.

The error was picked up by a nurse present at the time.

“This event should not have happened,” he told Sky News.

“We cannot afford, and we don’t want the confidence in the rollout of the vaccine to be undermined.   

“We will continue to provide all information that we can to the Australian community so that they can maintain confidence in the vaccine rollout, it’s very, very important that we are open and frank with them in respect to this and we will be.” 

A statement from Healthcare Australia chairman Daren McKennay said, “We apologise unreservedly to the patients and their families involved for the distress this has caused and assure the community that the error was isolated and will not be repeated.”

CEO Jason Cartwright has agreed to stand down from his role, and new management is being put in place.

Not enough vaccines to make it mandatory

Colbeck said more evidence would need to become available about the vaccine before it would be made mandatory.

“Because we don’t yet understand fully what the vaccine does in the context of transmission of the virus… the decision was made not to make it mandatory,” he told Sky News.   

“As Minister Hunt has said if we’re making things mandatory without the proper evidence that will undermine confidence.” 

The decision is based on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee but remains an “open matter”, he said.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said it was too early to make the vaccine compulsory because there are only 142,000 doses in Australia.

“At the moment we can’t make it mandatory because we don’t have the vaccine available to everybody right across the country,” he told the ABC.

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