The federal government is unaware of how many home care workers in the aged care sector have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health officials confirmed at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that no vaccination data had been collected for around 130,000 home care workers.
Labor Senator Murray Watt pressed officials over why the data had not been collected, given the nature of their work – namely, caring for a vulnerable group across multiple sites.
“Home care workers go from house to house to house,” he told the hearing.
“We don’t know how many of them have been vaccinated. That has surely got to be a high risk, especially in Melbourne right now.”
In response, Department of Health official Michael Lye pointed to a government decision to prioritise individuals in residential care facilities rather than home care during the vaccine rollout.
“The vaccination is one line of defence that has been deployed during COVID – there has been a series of actions taken to reduce risk,” he told the hearing.
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said the decision to prioritise residential care over home care had been made by the expert group of immunisation advisers.
“Home care workers are like other healthcare workers and they are eligible in 1b,” he told the hearing.
“They have been eligible, as other health care workers are, to go and get vaccination through other multiple points of presence.”
The revelation comes after Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck on Tuesday also said the government did not know.
The Victorian outbreak has placed renewed pressure on the federal government’s delivery of the rollout into aged-care settings, after two aged care workers and a resident tested positive.
Labor senators have used Senate estimates to pressure the government over the lack of vaccine data, and the slow pace of the rollout in the aged care and disabilities support sector.
A new system will start collect information from aged care providers from Friday.
Professor Murphy said the portal would allow the government to more closely monitor data for residential aged care workers.
“Our priority has not changed. It’s to protect those vulnerable to severe disease,” he told the hearing.
“I believe that there significantly more than 10 per cent of residential aged care workers have been vaccinated.”
Some 32,833 aged care workers have received two vaccine doses based on minimum estimates provided to Senate estimates. This is out of an estimated 366,000 people employed in aged care nationally.