Vaccine rollout phase an ‘abject failure’

A group of vulnerable Australians are yet to have a COVID-19 vaccine despite being in the first phase, with just a handful in some states getting a jab.

Fewer than 1000 disability care residents have received a COVID-19 vaccine, new figures show.

The disability royal commission on Monday heard from senior counsel assisting Kate Eastman that the vaccine rollout was an “abject failure”.

But she said she understood the commission would need to hear the federal government’s explanation about the low inoculation rates.

“These are people who represent some of our most vulnerable members of the population,” Ms Eastman said.

“The Australian government rollout of vaccines to people with disability in residential care – and these are people who represent some of the most vulnerable people in our population – has been an abject failure.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said 999 disability residents had been vaccinated as of midday on Monday.

A further 1526 support workers had also received a jab.

Under the government’s vaccine rollout plan, they were among the first priority group.

Mr Hunt said now that 60 per cent of residential aged care facilities had received a second visit, they were moving into the next stage of the disability rollout.

“Those teams are being redeployed into disability (care facilities),” he said.

“It’s an intended sequential process and it’s based on risk, and we’re following that advice.”

He said people could also get vaccinated through providers, primary health networks and GPs.

The royal commission heard that at May 6, government figures for people with a disability in residential care showed:

– In South Australia, just six people had received a vaccine, with only two receiving two doses

– In Tasmania, just eight people had received a vaccine, with only two receiving two doses

Ms Eastman said the figures did not include people with a disability in residential care or support workers who had made their own arrangements to get vaccinated.

Royal Australasian College of Physicians president John Wilson called for greater vaccine data among the disability sector amid concerns about the slow pace.

“The government’s daily vaccination updates do not provide comprehensive data about the progress of vaccination of people with disabilities,” Professor Wilson said.

“This may be masking the very low numbers of vaccinations that have been delivered in disability care settings.”

Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said priority groups were supposed to be vaccinated by Easter – six weeks ago.

“Not even 1 per cent of Australians living in disability care have been fully vaccinated,” Mr Butler said.

“Barely 4 per cent have even received a single dose.”

In total, more than 3.1 million vaccine doses have now been administered across Australia, including a big jump of more than 436,000 last week.

Australia’s drug regulator is expected to clear a further 352,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine, which arrived in Australia on Monday, and another million doses of AstraZeneca in coming days.

Zero cases of community transmission were recorded on Monday.

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