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All Commonwealth residential aged care facilities to be vaccinated by the end of Friday, Greg Hunt says

All residential aged care facilities managed by the federal government will receive COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the day, Health Minister Greg Hunt has vowed, after being grilled on the delayed rollout.

One day earlier, Mr Hunt told the ABC’s 7.30 program that as of Thursday morning there were still 74 aged care homes across the country that had not received vaccines, almost two months after the original deadline.

But in a press conference on Friday afternoon, Mr Hunt said he had received information that all aged care facilities would receive vaccines by the end of the day.  

“… We now have the vaccination program in the aged care facilities that, on all advice I have before joining you, is expected to have all facilities in Commonwealth residential aged care having been vaccinated by the end of today,” he said. 

Aged care residents and workers fell under the priority phase 1a of the vaccine rollout, which began on 22 February and was meant to be completed within six weeks.

More than 52 per cent of Australians aged 70 or over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Mr Hunt said, with more than 124,000 jabs administered nationwide in the past 24 hours.

Commodore Eric Young of the Vaccine Operations Centre said this was a single-day record, taking the total number of doses administered to more than four million. The government previously predicted Australia would hit the four million dose milestone in March. 

“It took us 47 days to get to our first million and only 13 to get to our latest million,” he said.

But only around 500,000 people, or about two per cent of the population, have received the full two doses of a vaccine. 

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Friday stressed the importance of even the first dose.

“Zero doses give you no protection. One dose gives a very good protection quite quickly,” he told reporters. 

There are also ongoing concerns around the vaccine rollout to the disability sector, as people with disability and support workers say they are still waiting to get the jab, despite being included in priority groups.

A special hearing of the disability royal commission last week heard only four per cent of residents in disability supported accommodation, who are included in phase 1a, had so far received the vaccine after health authorities made the decision to prioritise aged care facilities.

Following the completion of the aged care rollout, Mr Hunt said the in-reach vaccination workforce would “transition” to disability supported accommodation facilities. 

A fast-growing COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria has put the spotlight back on the government’s vaccination schedule, as the state entered its fourth hard lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic.

State health authorities revealed four new cases had been linked to the outbreak on Friday, taking the total number of infections to 30. 

Mr Hunt said a record number of Victorian’s had come forward for vaccination since the outbreak, including 41,000 over the past day.

“Each person is doing their bit to help protect themselves and protect the nation,” he said. “We can do this. I know we can do this. We’ve done it before. We can do it again.”

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