How one aged care provider beat Australia’s slow vaccine rollout

Australia’s progress in vaccinating some of its highest-priority citizens has been slower than anyone wanted, but one Melbourne aged care provider is streets ahead of the rest.

In the next few weeks, private provider TLC Aged Care is likely to become the first residential aged care company to have all residents and staff fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

They’ve got there by taking matters into their own hands.

“We really didn’t want our residents, staff or contractors to endure another winter with the nervousness and trepidation that they have endured over the last 16 months,” CEO Lou Pascuzzi said.

“We’ve got immunisation capabilities and primary care capabilities.

“We decided to approach the government …  and ask for permission to administer phase 1a ourselves.”

Aged care worker being vaccinated
All 2,000 staff and residents will be fully vaccinated in three weeks, the company said.
 (ABC News: Patrick Rocca )

The federal government agreed to send Pfizer doses, and TLC Aged Care started immunising in the second week of March.

“We’re now three weeks away from completing double doses for all of our 1500 residents and 2000 staff and contractors,” Mr Pascuzzi said.

The company is also claiming a high uptake rate for the vaccine, with 91.25 per cent of staff and residents taking up the opportunity to get a shot.

But the TLC model is not one that can be rolled out widely in aged care, as most residential homes don’t have the medical facilities or expertise to deliver immunisations.

Slow going in the rest of the sector
Nationally, around 153,000 doses have been administered in the Commonwealth aged care rollout as of yesterday.

That represents around a quarter of the vaccination program for just residents of aged care homes.

Vaccinations have taken place in at least 1121 sites, representing around 40 per cent of all residential aged care homes.

Boxes of flu vaccine sit in a fridge next to a box of AstraZeneca vaccine
 The change in advice for the AstraZeneca vaccine has also delayed the rollout.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca )

Many homes still don’t know when they’ll get a visit from Commonwealth vaccination teams, including Alwyndor aged care in Adelaide’s south.

“The rollout has been slower than we’d anticipated – a number of care homes in the surrounding areas have had theirs,” said general manager Beth Davidson-Park said.

“It is a little concerning, certainly all of our residents would be category 1a, vulnerable, increasingly acute.”

Beth Davidson-Park said her residents were vulnerable and they still had no timeline for vaccinations.(ABC News )

Aged care staff may be waiting a while
The vast majority of the doses in the sector have so far gone to residents, with workers in the sector waiting on the sidelines.

They may be waiting some time.

The changed advice for the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those under 50 means those workers no longer have a timeline on which they’ll be inoculated.

“Our advice to staff has been to contact their GP and get their vaccination independently of work,” Ms Davidson-Park said.

The Prime Minister said his priority is still to vaccinate those most vulnerable in our community in phases 1a and 1b, “particularly those Australians aged over 70”.

“Right now, our focus is on vaccinating people for whom the AstraZeneca vaccine does not present a challenge,” Scott Morrison said yesterday.

“Those supplies are continuing to roll out.”

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