Aged care vaccine rollout will be on track next week: Hunt

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday, defending the pace of the vaccine rollout. Picture: Getty Images
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday, defending the pace of the vaccine rollout. Picture: Getty Images

Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended the slow start to the vaccine rollout program in aged care centres, saying extra checks and balances put in place since the overdose of two elderly residents in Brisbane were causing the delays.

The government promised 240 aged care centres would receive vaccinations this week, but so far just 71 have been part of the rollout.

In the ACT the rollout is on track, contractor Aspen Medical says, with the ninth aged care centre to receive vaccinations on Friday.

Three disability care providers have also received vaccines this week in Canberra.

Healthcare Australia, one of the two companies contracted by the federal government to administer vaccines in aged care centres, has confirmed its chief executive officer Jason Cartwright has stood aside while an internal review takes place.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd has completed his investigation into the incident, confirming a 94-year-old woman and an 88-year-old man had been administered four times the recommended dose of the Pfizer vaccine, by a doctor who hadn't done the appropriate training.

Healthcare Australia initially told the federal government it had seen proof the doctor had completed the training, before later admitting he had not done it.

Professor Kidd and Mr Hunt said it wasn't clear if the doctor had lied about doing the training, but no document existed to confirm he had.

"They have been put on notice of potential termination for any significant further breaches," Mr Hunt said on Thursday.

"It is a company with a long history of medical provision across Australia, and a long history through COVID of medical provision, but frankly we have thrown the book at them."

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Residents at about 70 aged care homes have received the vaccine, with the government initially expecting that figure to be 240 by the end of the week.

Despite the delay, Mr Hunt said he expected the rollout would be back on track within the first few days of next week, and it was expected that relatively few doses would be administered in the first few days before ramping up significantly.

"Let's put everything in perspective," he said.

"We went from 1600 vaccinations on day one, which was effectively a trial and commencement day, to approximately 6000 on day two, to almost 10,000 on day three. We're expecting significantly increased continuous numbers and then a stable state."

"On the 60,000 doses, we're likely to achieve that either by Sunday night, or within 24 hours afterwards, on the 240 aged care facilities, it's likely to be within within 72 hours of the scheduled time, and by the end of the second week, we're expecting to be fully on track."

The federal government concedes public confidence in the vaccine rollout has been affected by the excess dose bungle.

The elderly pair have shown no signs of an adverse reaction, with one of the residents set to return home from hospital on Thursday afternoon.

The other vaccine recipient, an 88-year-old man, was also admitted to hospital for observation and is staying there for an unrelated elective surgery.

Healthcare Australia has the federal contract for the vaccination workforce in NSW and Queensland, and Aspen Medical is responsible for the other states and territories.

Another provider will be brought in to help Healthcare Australia in NSW and Queensland.

Healthcare Australia has also brought in more senior management and former chief nursing officer Debra Thoms will be part of the company's program at the government's request.

Queensland has asked for a national cabinet due to be held next week to be brought forward to discuss issues with the vaccination program.

Healthcare workers administering the jabs will now have to prove they have completed the mandatory training modules.

"Safety remains our paramount concern for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program," Professor Kidd told reporters in Canberra.

"This breach of quality and safety has been unacceptable."

- with AAP

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This story Aged care vaccine rollout will be on track next week: Hunt first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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