Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aged Care, COVID-19: Vaccination
My question is to the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care services, Senator Colbeck. Can the minister inform the Senate of the government's plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine into aged-care facilities across the country?
Thanks, Senator Van, for the question. It's an important one, especially given the Prime Minister and the health minister have advised of the TGA's provisional regulatory approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which, of course, is central to our vaccine strategy.
Rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to our frontline healthcare and quarantine workers and our most vulnerable is the highest priority of the government. We saw the first delivery of Pfizer vaccines touch down in Sydney yesterday, and we are working to have those vaccines distributed to those priority groups across the country. Vaccination for residents and staff will be made available through residential aged-care facilities where they live or work. The vaccine implementation plan for residential aged care aims to administer doses to more than 240 aged-care facilities in the first week. Vaccines will be delivered by Commonwealth led teams. Healthcare Australia will provide vaccination workforce in New South Wales and Queensland, and Aspen Medical will be responsible for the other states and territories. The vaccination program will be supported at local levels by the Primary Health Networks, and everybody responsible for providing the vaccine in aged-care settings will be required to have completed the relevant training, including the use of multidose phials, cold storage and, of course, infection control. In the coming weeks, the vaccination program will reach more than 2,600 residential aged-care facilities and more than 183,000 residents and 339,000 staff.
That's an important question. Information has been sent out to aged-care facilities for residents and their families, carers and loved ones about what to expect in the lead-up to and on vaccination day. Our clinical workforce will work very closely with each facility in the lead-up to vaccination day to plan and to make sure each vaccination day runs safely and efficiently. Each residential age-care facility will ask residents and their substitute decision-maker—if one is in place—to consent to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Clinical staff at facilities will check the health of residents prior to administering the vaccine, and if families have any concerns about the health of residents they should consult a GP. As always, safety, safety, safety is uppermost in our minds as we embark on our vaccination program across the country.
COVID-19 risks the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. We have prioritised those most at risk—our senior Australians and our frontline workers. They will be part of phase 1a. It is on track, as planned, to roll out next week. Phase 1b will include adults aged 70 years and over; other healthcare workers; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55; younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability; critical high-risk workers, including defence, police, fire, emergency services; and meat processing workers. Phase 2a includes adults aged 50-69 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 to 54 years and other critical and high-risk workers. Phase 2b extends to the remainder of the population within Australia over the age of 16.