An aged care worker testing positive for COVID-19 in the ACT has thrown a spotlight on the slow vaccine rollout to a cohort of workers who are supposed to have received at least one dose by 17 September.
The aged care worker at Greenway Views is believed to have had one dose, and ACT Health was checking the vaccination status of all staff and residents.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the fact that the worker had received a dose gave hope that the extent of transmission was reduced.
The Federal Government made vaccination mandatory for residential aged care workers in June, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr said today (16 August) that there were still about 1,000 staff in the ACT yet to receive their first dose, equivalent to about half the workforce.
This was roughly at the same level as the general population.
Last week, Region Media reported that less than 40 per cent of Canberra’s residential aged care staff had received at least one jab, well below the national average of 56 per cent,
At the time, Mr Barr said the Commonwealth, which is leading the vaccination program, “needed to get on board here and do more”.
“With five weeks to go … the program needs to accelerate. There is no doubt about that,” he said.
Mr Barr said vaccination of aged care workers was a priority at the ACT’s vaccination hubs and the Commonwealth’s in-reach program went out to individual workplaces to administer doses.
Staff who are haven’t had at least one dose by the 17 September deadline will not be able to work in an aged care centre.
Mr Barr said the ACT was doing all it could to vaccinate its population, but it came down to supply.
The 14,000 extra Pfizer doses the ACT will receive out of the million acquired from Poland will help, but with 80,000 people in the 20 to 29 cohort in the ACT, and people needing two doses, the extra supply won’t cover them, Mr Barr said.
More vaccines are expected in the spring, including the Moderna vaccine, and the rollout should be extended, he said.
“We do what we can,” Mr Barr said. “But it is as it has always been, limited by available vaccine supply.”
He said the ACT was leading the nation in vaccination, and he has said before that the Territory was likely to be the only jurisdiction to have more than 90 per cent of each age cohort above 70 vaccinated.
There is good supply of AstraZeneca, which is recommended for people aged over 60, but the ACT Government is leaving it to individuals to decide whether they want it, based on medical advice.
AstraZeneca has a very rare blood clotting side-effect but is still considered safe and effective.