By Julie Owens

27 July 2021

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said ‘sorry’ for Australia’s botched vaccine rollout.

With more than half the country in lockdown, it seems he had no choice but to accept some responsibility for what is arguably his most important job.

In Parramatta, the consequences of the slowest vaccine rollout in the OECD are obvious. Businesses are closed, streets are deserted and many people are out of work and struggling.

But these are not the only consequences. This week I want to talk about how the Morrison Government’s vaccine failures have put some of the most vulnerable members of our community at risk.

You may have heard that despite promising to vaccinate all aged care workers and residents by Easter, some residents and a staggering 57% of workers remain unvaccinated.

You probably haven’t heard anything about vaccinations for the almost 1 million older Australians who are receiving care at home.

This kind of care involves multiple aged care workers and volunteers, such as cleaners, specialist carers and Meals on Wheels visiting the homes of frail older people, sometimes daily.

I’ve heard from many seniors in this group who have struggled to book a vaccine appointment and others who don’t know how they’ll be able to get to their appointment, if they manage to book one.

I’ve also heard from seniors who are wondering whether the workers and volunteers who come into their homes are vaccinated.

83.5% of all older Australians receiving aged care do so in their own homes, not a residential aged care facility, and over a third of the aged care workforce provides care at home. Yet it seems the Morrison Government has no idea how many of these older Australians and workers have been vaccinated.

I said “you probably haven’t heard” about the vaccine rollout in home care because the Morrison Government isn’t talking about it. In press conferences and media interviews they seem to be pretending that the aged care system only exists in residential aged care.

They’ve either forgotten about the majority of Australians in the aged care system, or they’re trying to cover up a lack of oversight of the majority of the aged care vaccine rollout.

Older Australians who’ve spent a lifetime contributing to this country deserve better than this. First and foremost, they deserve a plan.

This means the Morrison Government needs to work out and tell us how many older Australians receiving home care have managed to get vaccinated without any government support. Likewise the workers and volunteers who support them. Then they need to set a target for when the rest of them will be vaccinated and tell us how they’re going to make it happen, safely and effectively.

Scott Morrison has said the vaccine rollout isn’t a race. But it undoubtedly is, especially for the most vulnerable members of our community, and we need to start running.