As the nation continues to progress towards the 80% target for COVID-19 vaccination, it is worth acknowledging that apart from a relatively small number of exceptions, residential aged care workers have already achieved 100% for their first dose. Meanwhile, aged care staff who work in the community are also well on the way to being fully vaccinated.
This has been a mammoth task for the sector, that has required the commitment of many people over a very short lead time.
When aged care providers received a letter from Ministers Hunt and Colbeck on 18 August advising them that COVID-19 vaccination would become mandatory for all residential aged care workers within a month, it was an incredibly daunting, almost impossible prospect. Especially given that the legislation was yet to be passed.
Thankfully, the government began providing in-reach clinics at residential aged care sites, which enabled better access to the vaccine. This had been something that the sector had been asking for since the vaccine first became available. For those in rural and remote regions, accessibility of the vaccine has been particularly difficult.
Given the 24/7 nature of residential aged care homes, finding the time for staff to be vaccinated can be challenging. In some instances, staff were encouraged to access a vaccination nearby at short notice, to take advantage of an in-reach clinic that was underway. This required quick decision making, action and flexibility from staff and management.
Reporting of vaccination rates, both internally and externally to the government, was a necessary, additional impost.
A weekly regime of communication, reporting and follow up has consumed many people in the sector. Regardless, it has demonstrated that it is possible, and the aged care sector has led the way.
Vaccination is the way forward for everyone. Anyone with concerns should speak with their doctor for factual information.
I would like to congratulate the amazing staff across the sector who have responded to the call and rolled up their sleeves for the benefit of residents, clients, colleagues and their own families.