Unions and aged care providers urge government to ramp up COVID-19 jabs for aged care workers

Aged care providers and unions have joined forces to demand the federal government lift its game on vaccinating workers in the sector.

Only one third of aged care workers have been vaccinated five months into the national rollout, despite being included in the highest priority group.

The provider-union plan includes government-funded workplace vaccinations and prioritised access at immunisation hubs close to nursing homes.

Workers would also be given paid leave to receive jabs and recover from potential reactions, as well as targeted vaccine education.

The alliance is also calling for more transparency on vaccine data and supply.

Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said workers should be a top priority.

“They shouldn’t be left to navigate the vaccine Hunger Games like everyone else,” she said.

“Our workers are already struggling in a very challenging work environment in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation secretary Annie Butler said workers were still not guaranteed access to vaccines.

Ms Butler accused the government of using smoke and mirrors to pin responsibility on workers who faced compulsory vaccination to stay in the sector by mid-September.

“We’re angry the government is trying to blame workers for its own failure to manage the COVID-19 vaccination rollout both in aged care and across the community,” she said.

Leading Age Services Australia, the United Workers Union, Australian Workers Union, Health Services Union, Australian Services Union and the ACTU are also on board.

Aged care royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs supports mandating vaccination but says aged care workers should have been vaccinated much sooner.

A coronavirus outbreak in a Sydney nursing home has grown to 10 cases, with six residents hospitalised and four staff infected.

Three of the employees were not vaccinated.

“I was shocked and dismayed and left asking myself what has happened here,” Ms Briggs told ABC radio.

“Has this been a mistake amongst officials, was it a response to insufficient vaccines, or was it deliberate? In which case, it is a scandal.”

Supply issues have hampered the rollout with the government waiting on more Pfizer doses before opening the scheme to broader sections of the population.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s success in containing the virus meant other nations had received supplies in response to emergency.

“I don’t think it is an issue of paying enough,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“We have put more than $7 billion to work in terms of the vaccine distribution as well as the acquisition of the vaccine.”

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