Thursday, 3 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister take responsibility for the failure to fully vaccinate aged-care workers, putting frail and vulnerable aged-care residents at risk?
The vaccination program in relation to aged-care workers was further reviewed at the national cabinet some six weeks ago. Additional points of availability for aged-care workers to be able to get the vaccination were put in place, and, again, I thank the states and territories for the work that they were doing to support the broader national effort that was put in place.
Of course the national vaccination program, which includes the vaccination of all Australians, is the responsibility of the federal government. I'm the Prime Minister, and as a result I take responsibility for that national vaccination program—of course I do. That's why I take matters to work with the states and territories together to get this job done. We're working with GPs and we'll ultimately be working with pharmacists as well. I can tell you today that in the last 10 days there have been a million doses delivered and well over 700,000 in the last seven days. We've delivered 4½ million doses. We've gone from a time when we had around 320,000 a week after we had the impact of the TGA assessment of AstraZeneca—
Yes, on relevance. The question was particularly confined to aged-care workers, not the general vaccine program. If he's got some data on aged-care workers, it might be useful.
I remind all members just simply to state the point of order. The Prime Minister was asked a very specific question. I think he's answered it in a way that was very relevant to the question. He's now obviously giving some context, but it's not unrelated context. I don't think the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business can insist that he answer it in another way at this point. As I said, I think the Prime Minister on the specific question that he was asked about taking responsibility has been very relevant to that point. Provided he stays on the general policy topic, I think that's fine.
In making reference to lifting the weekly rate of vaccination from 320,000 to now well over 700,000 a week, one of the decisions that was part of that was further enlisting the states in the support of vaccination and providing points of contact for aged-care workers. At this stage the AHPPC—the medical expert panel—have not recommended that aged-care worker vaccinations be made mandatory. They have not made that recommendation. They have not made it previously, and my advice is that it is unlikely to be made mandatory on their recommendation either. It is a matter that will be further considered by the national cabinet tomorrow. I think this is an important issue for us to consider.
I note that the Western Australian Premier, when they were faced with challenges in getting quarantine workers vaccinated, introduced public health orders to ensure that they could increase the rate of vaccination amongst quarantine workers. I think that was a good decision by the Western Australian Premier. Those opposite might find it puzzling that public health orders can play a role in increasing the rate of vaccination in essential occupations. That's certainly what happens in terms of flu vaccinations in relation to workers in aged care. I note that is not a mandatory requirement in Victoria, but what I simply say is there are many methods we can continue to employ to lift the level of vaccination in these occupations. We have increased the points of contact where they can have those vaccinations. We are doing that in partnership with the states and territories. But, once again, the Labor Party continues to undermine the national effort to get Australia vaccinated.
Opposition members interjecting—
My question is to the Minister for Health. People with disability in the regions are among those who need the vaccine the most. Yesterday I spoke to a highly distressed mother from my electorate whose young adult son has multiple disabilities and a very serious lung condition. Her son cannot access the Pfizer vaccine in his town and could not get an appointment at the vaccine hub 80 kilometres away. Why is he still waiting, Minister, and what are you doing right now to fix this dangerous situation?
I thank the member for Indi. In relation to in-reach as well as the outreach opportunities for Australian disability residents, so far we have had in-reach to over 530 facilities around the country. In particular, we note that in relation to Victoria, with regard to vaccines for disability residents, there is a total dosage of 2,878 which has been provided to disability residents, covering over 2,099 people—that is, 1,320 who have had one dose and 779 who have had two doses. In addition to that, we are working to ensure that there is a plan for each resident, as developed with their provider. There are five different options, depending on the needs of the home and the resident.
With regard to the particular individual, I'd be very happy to receive the details. If they are in a group that is immobile, so either themselves or others in the home are not mobile, then they will receive in-reach in one of two ways, either from general practices or from the specific clinics provided by the providers who are reaching into the homes, of which there have been over 530 nationwide already. If they are mobile then we're in a position to ensure that they have access to the 30 general practices, primary healthcare sites, within the member's electorate and the Commonwealth vaccination clinic. In addition to that, there is access to the state clinics that are specifically set up and taking those with disability, as the Prime Minister referred to in his previous answer to the 22 April decision of the national cabinet to ensure that residents and workers in the disability sector are able to attend state clinics. I would invite the member subsequent to question time to send us the details, so that we can correlate and understand whether or not an in-reach visit has been scheduled or whether the person is able to travel to an outreach site. Either way we will make sure that their needs are met and that they are vaccinated.