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Victoria initiates aged care staff vaccination 'blitz'

The Victorian Government will be enacting a five-day vaccination blitz that will provide aged care and disability staff with prioritisation at walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics, in a bid to protect the workforce who are taking care of Australia's most vulnerable.

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Aged care and disability workers will get priority access to walk-in COVID-19 vaccination hubs over the next five days. [Source: Shutterstock]

Victoria is currently in a circuit-breaker lockdown after a recent outbreak of COVID-19, which has resulted in the virus entering aged care facilities again.

Currently, two aged care facilities have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the Federal and State Government are frantically trying to slow the spread of the virus.

At a press conference today, Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, outlined the new blitz, which will run from Wednesday 2 June to Sunday 6 June for workers in private sector aged care facilities and the residential disability sector.

"Dedicated, hard working aged care and disability workers need easy access to the vaccine... We will be undertaking a five day vaccination blitz to ensure workers in these vulnerable settings are protected against the coronavirus," says Minister Donnellan.

These walk-in vaccination hubs across Victoria will be open from 9 am to 4 pm with a priority line available only for aged care and disability staff. Workers will need to present evidence of their employment.

Vaccination hubs will include the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Sandown Racecourse, the Melbourne Showgrounds, the former Ford Factory in Geelong, Bendigo Community Clinic, Ballarat Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre, Shepparton Showgrounds - McIntosh Centre, Elgin Racecourse, and the Wodonga Vaccination Hub.

Minister Donnellan says, "Aged care and disability workers are currently eligible to be vaccinated at state hubs but this is very much about trying to stimulate that demand. Trying to actually get more workers to get greater coverage of the private aged care sector and the disability sector.

"[The Victorian Government] have concerns that there isn’t enough coverage, that is why we are stepping in."

This announcement follows recent news that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, requested the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) revisit suggestions around making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all aged care workers.

The AHPPC, a committee of Federal, State and Territory health officers and officials, previously decided against making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for aged care workers back in January.

Minister for Equality, Minister for Health, and Minister for Ambulance Services, Martin Foley, provided statistics on the Victorian outbreak with nine new cases of COVID over the last 24 hours, bringing the State up to 63 active cases.

There was initial concern of contamination at another aged care facility due to a staff member working across two sites, however, they were found to have not been infectious while working at the other site.

For the moment, the Victorian Government is remaining tight-lipped on whether the lockdown will be extended past its initial seven day announcement. However, Minister Foley did state that they were troubled by the recent discovery of COVID-19 in aged care facilities.

"Aged care, particularly our private residential aged care, knows more than any other group how devastating COVID-19 can be," says Minister Foley.

"...Every day in the global pandemic is pretty grim, and we need to make sure that the hard work that all of Victorians are putting into this outbreak, that the real risk that we are facing particularly at our aged care settings, particularly at our high risk private residential aged care settings, are taken into account.

"What we want to do is to make sure that our efforts reflect the value of that sacrifice, and avoid the risk that we saw last winter of the devastation that this causes private residential aged care. I think Victorians really expect that of the Government and that is what we will be doing."

The Victorian Government did express dismay at the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the State, however, Minister Foley says that the State wants to do all it can to work in partnership with the Federal Government to fix the issues.

"The rules seem to change over the course of the rollout, we were all working off the basis of when we [vaccinated] public residential care residents, we would also vaccinate staff, [but] the Commonwealth just focused on residents," explained Minister Foley.

"...I’m always concerned that any community transmission, which we have clearly seen in Victoria, may end up in our most at risk settings. We’ve seen it in the last few days in private residential aged care, and I’d be extremely concerned if it got into NDIS covered residential disability services."

"...I think we will all only be satisfied once every Victorian who is eligible to be vaccinated is vaccinated. We can’t rest as a community – all levels of Government need to put their shoulder to the wheel together to achieve that outcome."

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