CANBERRA, AAP – The military chief in charge of Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout insists aged care workers remain a priority.
Only one in three aged care staff have been vaccinated despite becoming eligible in the first phase of the program, which started in February.
Lieutenant General John Frewen acknowledged aged care staff were a critical workforce and said they were being treated as an absolute priority.
“We are accelerating efforts to get those aged care workers vaccinated,” he told the ABC on Tuesday.
“They are at about 36 per cent now, which is actually above the broader national average, so progress is being made.”
Early in the vaccine rollout, the federal government decided to prioritise aged care residents over nursing home staff, considering them the most vulnerable.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Lt Gen Frewen said.
Five residents of a Sydney nursing home have tested positive to coronavirus after two staff members were diagnosed.
Vaccines will be mandatory for residential aged care staff from mid-September.
The government has introduced an $11 million grant scheme to help aged care workers take time off to get vaccinated and stay home if they feel side effects.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has raised concerns about vaccinating home-based aged care providers.
Mr Albanese said the vaccine mandate did not apply to 150,000 aged care staff who worked with one million older Australians living in the community.
He warned the failure to include community workers in the mandate was “a huge gaping hole” in the vaccine program and an outbreak waiting to happen.
“The government doesn’t even have a plan for these workers,” Mr Albanese told 2GB radio.