The COVID-19 vaccine is set to be rolled out to Residential Aged Care Homes in late February 2021. The Department of Health has released new information for aged care providers and workers. Here are the key points:
- The government plans to begin distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to residential aged care homes in late February 2021.
- Aged care workers are prioritised for receiving the vaccine because they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it to vulnerable people.
- Vaccines will be delivered to aged care homes and given in the home by “a trained and skilled vaccinator.”
- Vaccination is not compulsory but is “strongly encouraged.”
- The Department of Health will release more information soon.
What are the COVID-19 vaccine rollout phases?
The Australian Government has a National Rollout Strategy for vaccinating Australians against COVID-19. The strategy involves vaccinating different groups one after the other in an order of priority.
The top priority is Phase 1a. In this Phase up to 1.4 million doses of the vaccine will be delivered to:
- Quarantine and border workers
- Frontline health care worker sub-groups for prioritisation
- Aged care and disability care staff
- Aged care and disability care residents
Once this Phase is complete the vaccine will be given to other groups such as elderly adults who are not in residential aged care, other health care workers, high-risk workers (e.g. police), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and finally the rest of Australian adults and some children.
Why are aged care workers being prioritised?
According to the Department of Health:
“Aged care workers are a priority group because they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their frequent contact with people. They are also more likely to transmit the virus to vulnerable people through their work in hospitals and aged care facilities. It is for everyone’s benefit that this group is prioritised for vaccination so they can continue providing essential care.”
Vaccination is not compulsory
According to the Department of Health, “getting vaccinated is voluntary, but strongly encouraged”.
Vaccines will be distributed to aged care homes and given to recipients in the home
The Department of Health advises that the relevant government agencies and peak bodies will organise distribution of the vaccine, and that “Information about distribution, registration and consent will be available soon.”
The Department also advises that the vaccine will be given in the home by “a trained and skilled vaccinator.” Information will be provided to workers and residents ahead of the vaccinator’s arrival.
What can aged care homes do to prepare?
Aged Care Homes should have a plan to manage COVID-19 vaccinations. This plan should include processes and procedures for:
- informing residents and their representatives about vaccination (see the Department of Health’s resource: COVID-19 vaccine – Information for residents in residential aged facilities and their families, representatives and carers)
- supporting residents and their representatives, getting their feedback and answering their questions
- obtaining consent for vaccination – this would be similar to other vaccination approval programs
- recording and reporting.
- Informing staff about vaccination and supporting them with any questions that they may have (see the Department of Health’s resource: COVID-19 vaccine – Information for workers, health professionals and other workers in residential aged care facilities).
Aged Care Homes should consider the ways that vaccination will change some of the processes set out in their COVID-19 outbreak management plan and update the plan accordingly – e.g. different monitoring processes may apply to people who are vaccinated vs people who aren’t.
To support Aged Care Providers the Department of Health have made available a COVID-19 vaccine aged care stakeholder kit. This stakeholder kit contains information about the COVID-19 vaccine national rollout program for aged care residents, workers and their families.
Finally, keep up to date by regularly visiting the Department of Health website and the “Key COVID-19 Regulatory Updates” tracking page. Share trusted information with workers and residents and your wider community.