Greg Hunt has pointed the finger at one group of people over the takeup of booster shots.
The Health Minister has been slammed for failing to know how many aged care residents who died from Covid-19 during the Omicron wave had received their third dose.
Pressure is also mounting on embattled Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck.
Senator Colbeck is under fire for attending the cricket after claiming he was too busy to front a Covid inquiry.
It is the latest in a long line of controversies to hit the minister.
In a fiery press conference on Thursday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese demanded Senator Colbeck’s resignation over failures in aged care throughout the pandemic.
Mr Hunt held a press conference to urge nursing home residents to get their third jab.
He and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly offered a grim insight as to what winter would look like with another wave of Omicron expected to coincide with the first flu season since 2019.
More than 777 aged care residents have died due to Covid-19 since July 1 last year, at least 470 of whom have died since January 1.
“There will be more deaths, more elderly people will die,” Professor Kelly said.
“Despite our best efforts, despite all the infection control, there is a risk of that happening.
“The balance between deaths and increased aged care restrictions is difficult, and these are ethical and philosophical questions. They’re hard decisions.
“I do expect deaths in aged care and elsewhere over the coming weeks and months of elderly people over the age of 70.”
While 99 per cent of aged care facilities have been visited and residents offered their booster, less than two-thirds have taken up the jab.
Professor Kelly said there were a number of “vulnerability issues” that came into play when deciding whether or not to have an elderly aged care resident boosted.
“These are sometimes very difficult and complex conversations and that has been an important part of the rollout to aged care,” he said.
“The important fact is that the booster has been made available for 99 per cent of aged care residents, and that is an incredible effort.”
Earlier, Mr Hunt was slammed for not knowing how many aged care residents who had died from Covid-19 had or had not received their booster.
Professor Kelly said a team would be set up to investigate how many of the aged care deaths were those who had not received their booster.
“We will be setting up a specific task force in the department to look at that, and do everything we can to get more detail about the issues that particularly in aged care, but more broadly in the community, related to people who have passed away,” Professor Kelly said.
Mr Hunt came under fire for failing to have the data, before trying to change the subject to PPE being rolled out.
When pressed further as to why more than 74,000 aged care residents had not received their booster, Mr Hunt sought to put the blame on the residents’ families.
Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck told the Senate’s Covid-19 committee on Wednesday that the aged care sector was performing “extremely well” despite the Omicron outbreak.
Senator Colbeck told the inquiry there had been 471 deaths in aged care since January 1, but he was unable to answer how many of those people had been boosted.
According to Mr Hunt, there have been 777 deaths in aged care linked to Covid-19 since July 2021, but he did not know how many of those had occurred since January 1.
Instead, he began to tell ABC Radio host Patricia Karvelas how many units of PPE had been delivered to aged care centres in the last four weeks.
Cutting him off, Karvelas asked him to instead provide details about the deaths.
“There’s a figure I’m looking at minister, and I don’t mean to be rude, but (Senator Colbeck) couldn’t answer yesterday how many of the 471 people who died in residential aged care (since January 1) with Covid-19 had received a booster. Can you give us that information?” Karvelas asked.
Mr Hunt said as it was up to states to obtain that data, he did not have it on hand, an answer Karvelas was not happy with.
“Why don’t you have that data?” she said.
Mr Hunt replied: “That data is collected by the states through the coronial process or other processes.”
He was cut off by Karvelas asking “have you asked for it?”.
“Of course we have,” he responded.
Karvelas asked why the states hadn’t provided it.
“It’s such a key question. how many of those who have died have actually been boosted? that’s the key question and we can’t answer it right now. Why?” she asked.
Mr Hunt said the “very simple answer” was that at this stage, the material had not been provided by the states who collect through the public health units.
At the committee on Wednesday, it was revealed that while 89 per cent of aged care residents had received their first two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, only 66 per cent had received a booster.
In turn, Mr Hunt implored the families of the 74,000 un-boosted aged care residents to consent to having their loved ones jabbed again.
“Over 99 per cent of facilities have received booster visits … My gentle message to families is please, please please allow your loved ones to have heat booster to provide that comfort,” Mr Hunt said.
“We’ll keep going back and providing those opportunities … Not all have chosen to take their booster.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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