Vaccine snub anger

Aged care residents will have to wait for their turn to be vaccinated.

Michaela Meade and Jessica Micallef

Aged care residents in Whittlesea and Hume will need to wait at least one more week before receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, with all aged care homes in both municipalities left off the week one vaccination schedule.

The federal government last week announced the location of the aged care centres that would receive the vaccine first. The national roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine began yesterday.

Epping Gardens Aged Care, which recorded the third highest number of cases among aged care centres during Victoria’s second wave, has not been scheduled to receive the vaccine this week.

The centre was linked to 240 cases and 38 deaths. Residents, their families and staff have launched a class action against the operators of Epping Gardens, Heritage Care, over their “failure” to protect residents from COVID-19.

Federal member for Scullin Andrew Giles said Whittlesea and Hume aged care sites not being included in the rollout’s first week “isn’t good enough”.

“Some of the worst affected aged care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t receive a single dose of the vaccine in the first week of the vaccination program,” Mr Giles said.

“This isn’t good enough.

“Melbourne’s northern suburbs have been the hardest hit by this pandemic.

“Why aren’t our aged care homes at the top of the list of the vaccine rollout?

“At Epping Gardens Aged Care home 38 people lost their lives. At St Basil’s in Fawkner 44 people lost their lives.

“But they’re having to wait.”

Mr Giles said there is not enough information about when residents will get their vaccinations.

“We still don’t know when these aged care homes will get the Pfizer vaccine,” Mr Giles said.

“Too little is known about who gets the vaccine when and where. It’s also vital that the vaccine is delivered in a culturally appropriate way in elderly multicultural communities.

“What we do know is that having failed to protect aged care residents last year, the Morrison Government isn’t prioritising the aged care homes in Melbourne’s north that saw some of the greatest loss of life from COVID-19.”

Former Hume mayor and Japara Goonawarra Aged Care resident Jack Ogilvie has called for the government to review the roll-out and prioritise aged care homes that had a high number of cases and deaths.

“Most of the deaths in Victoria were in nursing homes in the metropolitan area. I can’t figure out why we weren’t first,” he said.

I saw 20 of my friends die last year and that’s why I am so wild,” he said.

“We have been through it and we got out in the end but 20 friends didn’t.

“There are places in the regions that hardly had any COVID and they are getting the vaccination before us.”

Western suburbs Labor MP Brendan O’Connor questioned why suburbs which had some of the highest coronavirus infections in the country had not been included in the first location for the vaccine rollout.

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy last week said the selection of facilities for the rollout is a “complex logistic exercise”.

“We do not have community transmission, so there is no burning platform. It’s perfectly safe to take four of five weeks to vaccinate all of the aged care residents,” he said.

“The logistics teams have planned a very detailed logistics plan… to get distribution across the country, and a schedule where they can move from one site to another.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said vaccinations would be done in “clusters defined geographically to make sure that we have the most effective distribution”.

Mr Hunt said a vaccination hub would be set up at Austin Health.