More than half of the nation’s aged care workers are yet to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine dose, despite the virus rampaging through aged care homes.
Workers will be forced to receive the vaccine to remain employed at aged care centres, where Australia has suffered the vast majority of its Covid-19 deaths.
But just two months from the federal government’s September 17 deadline, Health Minister Greg Hunt conceded just 107,000 of the cohort, roughly 40 per cent, had received their first dose.
He denied the federal government was running out of time, insisting that number was “increasing significantly every day”.
“We have a series of ways to ensure that all those vaccinations … can be achieved so everybody is in a position to take that up,” he told reporters on Monday.
More than 600 aged care residents died from Covid-19 in 2020, with the elderly prioritised by the federal government’s rollout.
Over 213,000 aged care residents across Australia have been fully vaccinated, and another 33,000 have received their first dose.
But national cabinet also agreed in June to mandate vaccinations in the aged care sector over fears unvaccinated workers could transfer the virus to Australia’s most vulnerable.
That decision was on Friday reaffirmed by all states and territories, except Victoria.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said only Victoria’s chief health officer, not Premier Daniel Andrews, had the authority to make the decision.
Mr Hunt spoke as NSW recorded over 100 cases in a single day for the first time since mid-2020, with the state facing the prospect of a prolonged lockdown.
He said “advanced discussions” were underway between the Commonwealth and NSW governments over economic and mental health support for the state, which NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier described as “imminent”.
Mr Hunt also confirmed a health support package for NSW – including 1m surgical and N95 masks, and 250,000 pairs of gloves, gowns, and goggles – would be made immediately available.
He said the Commonwealth was “stepping up on behalf of all Australians” to support Australia’s most populous state through “moments of distress and uncertainty”.
“Virtually every Australian will have connections with friends or family who are under lockdown, and who are facing pressure and concern about their health,” he said.
“We have done this in other states and territories. We have been through this in Victoria … and we will do this again in NSW.”
More than 894,000 vaccines were administered across Australia, taking the country’s full vaccination rate to 11.3 per cent.
NCA NewsWire has contacted Mr Hunt for comment.