- The Guardian
- Issue #1963
The federal government’s vaccine rollout continues to be a disappointment. Two months ago, thirteen Pfizer pop-up Covid-19 vaccination hubs for younger aged care workers were meant to be operating – only three have been established, all of them are in Sydney and are set-up by private contractor Sonic Healthcare.
Aged care workers were scheduled to be vaccinated in phase 1a, which is the highest priority stage of the rollout. However, approximately only 61,000 of 250,000 aged and disability care workers have been vaccinated. The low numbers are a result of the government changing its rollout strategy. Initially it promised dedicated in-reach teams (i.e. government-provided response networks for COVID-19) to deliver vaccinations to aged care workers. However, according to The Guardian (UK), it has since moved to using a “combination of in-reach, general practitioners, and dedicated pop-up Pfizer vaccination hubs” (which were supposed to begin in April).
United Workers Union’s aged care director, Carolyn Smith, reflecting on the government’s failure in its vaccine rollout, stated that “aged care workers have been absolutely on the frontline of the threat of COVID” and that the current situation was “shocking.” Further commenting Smith recalled that “in Victoria with the big COVID outbreak, aged care workers were really incredibly impacted by COVID and are also a source of transmission into aged care, where the people most vulnerable to COVID are living.”
However, age care workers aren’t the only ones left out. Earlier this month, it was revealed that only 999 people in residential disability homes had been vaccinated. Department of Health associate secretary Caroline Edwards has conceded the department had underestimated the number of people living in disability homes. Furthermore, people with a disability were eligible for vaccinations in phase 1b – not 1a – of the rollout, which started in late March 22. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, There have been reports that the vaccine has been difficult to access. Speaking on this matter, Australian Greens Disability spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John that he felt “the treatment of disabled people throughout this pandemic has been discriminatory.”
When COVID-19 first broke out, the Morrison government had ample time to respond as it saw the carnage the virus caused throughout China and Europe. However, it chose to sit and play the waiting game. And now, it continues to lag when our most vulnerable citizens need it to act the most.
In addition to a need for an extensive vaccine rollout that should be utilising not one or two vaccines but others that have been made available, the government needs to prepare for future pandemics and deliver a more robust healthcare sector.
For example, Australia needs purpose-built quarantine centres that can operate as crisis centres or additional medical support when there are no viruses. We should not be relying on hotels to provide makeshift centres which are not suitable for quarantining People.
Australia has to do better. Not only during this pandemic but generally. We cannot continue to allow our most vulnerable citizens to be unprotected.