A royal commissioner who investigated failures in aged care is “shocked and dismayed” about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the vulnerable sector.
Only one third of aged care workers have been vaccinated five months into the national rollout, despite being included in the highest priority group.
Federal, state and territory governments have now decided to make vaccines compulsory for nursing home staff by mid-September.
Royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs supports the mandate but says aged care workers should have been vaccinated much sooner.
A coronavirus outbreak in a Sydney nursing home has grown to 10 cases, with six residents hospitalised and four staff infected.
Three of the employees were not vaccinated.
“I was shocked and dismayed and left asking myself what has happened here,” Ms Briggs told ABC radio.
“Has this been a mistake amongst officials, was it a response to insufficient vaccines, or was it deliberate? In which case, it is a scandal.”
The military man in charge of the national vaccine rollout has admitted aged care staff should have been vaccinated along with residents.
“Early in the program there was a decision made to prioritise the most vulnerable who are the aged people themselves,” John Frewen told the ABC.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We’re dealing with limited supplies and having to prioritise. We are accelerating efforts to get those aged care workers vaccinated.”