The Victorian Government will be enacting a five-day vaccination blitz that will provide disability and aged care staff with prioritisation at walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics, in a bid to protect the workforce who are taking care of Australia's most vulnerable.
At a press conference today, Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, outlined the new blitz, which will run from Wednesday 2 June to Sunday 6 June for workers in the residential disability sector and private sector aged care facilities.
Workers in these sectors will need to show evidence of their employment to receive a vaccination.
"Dedicated, hard working aged care and disability workers need easy access to the vaccine... We will be undertaking a five day vaccination blitz to ensure workers in these vulnerable settings are protected against the coronavirus," says Minister Donnellan.
These walk-in vaccination hubs across Victoria will be open from 9 am to 4 pm with a priority line available only for aged care and disability staff.
Vaccination hubs will include the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Sandown Racecourse, the Melbourne Showgrounds, the former Ford Factory in Geelong, Bendigo Community Clinic, Ballarat Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre, Shepparton Showgrounds - McIntosh Centre, Elgin Racecourse, and the Wodonga Vaccination Hub.
Aged care and disability workers are already eligible to be vaccinated at State hubs but low vaccination rates among workers in the disability sector had become a concern for the government.
“[The Victorian Government] have concerns that there isn’t enough coverage, that is why we are stepping in,” says Minister Donnellan.
"This is very much about trying to stimulate demand.
“Trying to actually get more workers to get greater coverage of the private aged care sector and the disability sector.”
Workers in both sectors can continue to attend at any time during opening hours. However, this priority access five-day blitz will ensure they can be vaccinated quickly during peak periods and do not need to book in advance.
"[The vaccine] has been available, but this is very much a call to arms of those workers on the frontline to come out and we will give you a priority lane so it makes it quicker and easier to get through it in a speedier time, because we very much want to ensure we are protecting those people in the aged care facilities and disability sector from COVID-19."
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants and other community members currently eligible for the vaccination program are also able to access their vaccinations at State-run vaccination sites.
All vaccination sites have a minimum standard of accessibility, however, Minister Donnellan also announced nine sites across the State will become enhanced accessibility centres.
“Separately, we’re also going to be setting up enhanced accessibility centres for people with disabilities in residential care,” Minister Donnellan says.
“These will very much be focussed on working directly with the major service providers of residential care for people with disabilities… It will be a direct link between the Department [of Health] and those larger providers to bring in people with disabilities who feel comfortable to actually have their vaccine shot outside of their residential facility.
“We will have disability liaison officers working with them to ensure that we also get greater coverage in that space. We have serious concerns in relation to the coverage of people with disabilities in residential settings… [and] we are very much stepping in to assist the Commonwealth in those endeavours to ensure we provide greater protection in the community.”
Minister for Equality, Minister for Health, and Minister for Ambulance Services, Martin Foley, provided statistics on the Victorian outbreak with nine new cases of COVID over the last 24 hours, bringing the State up to 63 active cases.
For the moment, the Victorian Government is remaining tight-lipped on whether the lockdown will be extended past its initial seven day announcement. However, Minister Foley did state that they were troubled by the recent discovery of COVID-19 in aged care facilities.
"I’m always concerned that any community transmission, which we have clearly seen in Victoria, may end up in our most at risk settings,” says Minister Foley.
“We’ve seen it in the last few days in private residential aged care, and I’d be extremely concerned if it got into NDIS covered residential disability services.
"I think we will all only be satisfied once every Victorian who is eligible to be vaccinated is vaccinated.
“We can’t rest as a community – all levels of Government need to put their shoulder to the wheel together to achieve that outcome."
The State Government did express dismay at the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the State, however, Minister Foley says the State wants to do all they can to work in partnership with the Federal Government to fix the issues.
"The rules seem to change over the course of the rollout, we were all working off the basis of, as Victoria was, when we [vaccinated] public residential care residents, we would also vaccinate staff, [but] the Commonwealth just focused on residents," explained Minister Foley.
Victoria has experienced record vaccination uptake over the past week. In the week ending Sunday 30 May, 95,676 doses were administered through State-run centres – an increase of 66 per cent over the previous week.
Since the Victorian Government expanded vaccine eligibility at State-run sites to those aged between 40-49 on 28 May, more than 22,000 Victorians in that age group have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Victorians are encouraged to continue booking their vaccine appointments through the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 or by visiting walk-up centres if they are over 50. To find out if you are eligible and book an appointment, use the Federal Government's Vaccine Eligibility Checker.