Aged care workers were prioritised as part of phase 1a of the national vaccine rollout, but the federal government has come under sustained criticism for its slow pace with thousands of staff across the country yet to be fully vaccinated.
Data from mid-May shows just 10 per cent of staff in Australian residential aged care facilities are fully vaccinated against the virus, and only 20 per cent have received their first dose.
Premier Steven Marshall today said the State Government would now “lean in” to support the rollout by offering the Pfizer vaccine to anyone working in aged care.
“At the moment the percentage of aged care workers that are fully vaccinated is way too low,” Marshall told reporters at the Wayville Showgrounds vaccination hub today.
“So that’s why what we’re doing here is we’re using some of our capacity within the state system to get as many people in that vulnerable setting as protected as they possibly can as quickly as they can.”
The premier said bookings at any of the State Government’s vaccination clinics – which include three mass vaccination hubs in Wayville, Elizabeth and Noarlunga – were now open to all staff working in aged care.
Marshall added that aged care workers would get be prioritised for the Pfizer jab because of the shorter three-week wait time between injections.
“We do that because we want to get those people that are working in that vulnerable situation at vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Marshall said.
“There is an elevated risk within our residential aged care facilities and that’s why we’re wanting to get the staff there vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier highlighted Victoria’s current COVID cluster as a key reason why aged care staff need to be prioritised for vaccinations.
“I just think it’s so important when we see what’s happening in Victoria [that] we do protect our aged care staff,” she said.
“This ability to have Pfizer [for age] 50 and up is not just for the personal care assistants, but it’s anybody who’s working in the aged care facility whether it’s a cleaner or an admin officer.
Spurrier said South Australia’s three vaccination hubs were looking at having an evening “like Thursday night shopping” to make vaccines “more accessible” for the aged care workforce.
It follows a similar decision by the Queensland Government on Wednesday to open state-run clinics to aged care and disability workers.
Two-year-old boy taken to hospital with COVID
Spurrier also revealed that a “quite unwell” two-year-old boy had been taken to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital with COVID-19.
However, SA Health later said the child had since been discharged back to their medi-hotel “where they will remain under close observation”.
Spurrier said the child arrived on a flight from overseas and SA Health will implement additional testing for other travellers on board.
“Because this is a child and they’re under 12, they would not have been wearing a mask on the air flight so we’re just a little bit more anxious about that particular flight,” Spurrier said.
“As a result we will be implementing some additional testing for anybody else that was on that flight, and they will be having a day three test as well.
“My thoughts are with this family today – it’s not nice having a little one only two very unwell.”
Spurrier said the toddler’s family have returned negative tests.
Another man in his 60s has been admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with the virus in a stable condition.
SA Health prepare for India repat flight
A repatriation flight from India with 150 passengers will arrive at Adelaide Airport on Friday, as SA Health prepares quarantine facilities for travellers from the COVID hotspot.
The arrivals will stay on a dedicated floor at Adelaide’s Pullman medi-hotel, and anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be transferred to the Tom’s Court Hotel.
It will be the first direct repatriation flight from India to arrive in Adelaide since earlier this year.
The premier said there are some “very vulnerable Australians” stranded in India and authorities have done “everything we possibly can” to mitigate the risk posed by the flight.
“We have made changes to the way that we operate with this particular flight because we are doing extensive testing and isolation in India before the flight,” Marshall said.
“This is extraordinarily important so that we can mitigate against the risk which is this variant of concern.”
One person who had a seat on the repatriation flight recorded a positive result on their pre-flight COVID test and has since been removed.
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