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Whatever is happening with the Commonwealth’s rollout of vaccinations to the residential aged care and disability care sector, it’s not anywhere near fast enough, and it’s not accelerating.

We learnt last week that less than 1% of people in residential disability care, or workers in that sector, had been fully vaccinated, despite the government’s commitment to have everyone in the sector vaccinated by the end of March.

Earlier this week, Health Department officials advised the Senate COVID-19 committee that so far about 37,000 workers in the aged and disability care sectors had been vaccinated, which is less than 12% of the total workforce.

Health could not provide an update on how many residents in the residential disability care sector had been vaccinated since last week, when there had been 192 full vaccinations and 1448 first shots, out of 25,000 residents or workers within that sub-sector.

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In case you think residential disability care really has been abandoned by the Morrison government, though, Health officials were at pains to assure the committee that they were doing everything they can to expedite vaccinations for the disabled and disability workers. “On 3 May we’ll be opening the first of our pop-up clinics. That will be in Blacktown in New South Wales, and we’ll be moving forward with the progressive opening of those clinics to a maximum of 13, each of which will be able to do at least 500 vaccinations a week, focusing on aged-care and disability workers,” a bureaucrat said. Sonic Healthcare will run the pop-ups. “Disability and aged-care workers can go to the pop-ups.”

Pop along, now

So, with “in-reach” teams contracted by the Commonwealth apparently having failed to deliver anything like a decent rollout to the disability sector, now people with disabilities and the workforce that cares for them can instead go along to one of 13 pop-up clinics. “We’re still looking at options for in-reach through GPs and elsewhere for workers in aged care.”

So, the message to people with disabilities in residential care is simple: don’t wait to be offered a vaccination — you’ll have to go out and get one yourself.

Residential disability and residential aged care vaccinations are directly controlled by the government — unlike primary care, where they’re delivered by GPs, who are provided with vaccines by the government, or vaccinations of health workers (and, in coming days, the wider population) which are delivered by the states through hospitals.

The Health Department does keep a daily tally of total, Commonwealth, primary care and residential aged/disability care vaccines, and the numbers for the last sector are not good. In the two completed weeks since daily records began, while the number of vaccinations delivered by GPs lifted last week to consistently more than 40,000 per weekday, the number of vaccinations delivered in residential aged/disability care by “in-reach” contractors hired by the Department of Health actually fell. No vaccinations were made at all on Anzac Day, understandably, but the holiday that some states had on Monday also badly affected the numbers.

The Health Department promised that residential disability care would now be a priority for them and that the numbers would lift “soon”. We’re still waiting.