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Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

Peaks, unions unite against government’s aged care vaccine ‘blame-shifting’

Australia’s aged care peak bodies and unions have rallied together to demand the government take responsibility over the failed vaccine rollout.

In a joint statement, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) along with the ANMF, AWU, UWU, HSU, ASU and the ACTU, have called for the workforce to be urgently vaccinated with the "Pfizer vaccine only". 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that aged care staff would be prioritised in the planned vaccine rollout. However, only two-thirds of workers in the sector have received the jab so far, according to recent health department figures. 

“The government has not been able to deliver on its own strategy, which prioritised aged care workers as the highest priority, and is now using a ‘smoke and mirrors’ game to pin the responsibility on the worker," ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said.

The group also wants paid vaccination leave, in-house vaccination hubs, a targeted education campaign and transparency and accountability on vaccine data and supply, they said in a list of demands released on Wednesday.

“Workers are still not guaranteed access to vaccines, whether on or off-site, and there’s insufficient support or special leave provisions to manage possible side-effects or reactions and the need to take time off,” said Butler. 

These calls follow the prime minister’s announcement last week that vaccination would be mandatory for all aged care staff. 

A lack of follow up information about this plan has increased confusion for workers and their families, read the joint statement. 

“It is infuriating to see workers treated as the scapegoat for the Government’s vaccine failures,” said HSU national president Gerard Hayes.

“The federal government should give the PR stunts a rest and focus on the substance of empowering workers to get vaccinated."

The only way to increase vaccination uptake in the aged care workforce is to make it easy for aged care workers, the group said, not to shame them.

“Aged care workers should be a top priority. They shouldn't be left to navigate the vaccine ‘hunger games’ like everyone else," said AACC spokesperson Patricia Sparrow.

"Our workers are already struggling in a very challenging work environment in the middle of a deadly pandemic. It needs to be easy and simple for them to be vaccinated, protect themselves and their families and continue to care for and protect residents.”

The recent COVID-19 outbreak in NSW now has a total of 279 cases linked to it, but a further 29 cases have not been linked.

87 other cases are also linked to those 29 mystery infections.

There are currently nine active cases in residential aged care nationwide; three in Victoria and six in NSW.

Since the pandemic began 910 people have died in Australia due to COVID-19, 685 of those were people in aged care.

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