Qld Health poised to deliver 100,000th COVID vaccine amid controversy over rollout
Qld Health poised to deliver 100,000th COVID vaccine amid controversy over rollout

We can’t ignore Federal Government’s vaccine shortfalls

Queensland Health is poised to deliver its 100,000th COVID-19 vaccination.

For some outside the health system, the rollout seems way too slow, particularly to the highest priority Phase 1A group, including frontline health workers and hotel quarantine staff at greatest risk of catching the virus.

Why haven't frontline doctors and nurses been prioritised over wardies and other hospital workers, armchair critics have demanded?

It's a legitimate question, but one that fails to fully comprehend the logistics and complexities of the biggest vaccine rollout in the state's history.

Bundaberg Hospital Intensive Care Unit Clinical Director Dr Doug Wilkinson receiving his COVID-19 vaccine from Sherine Binder.
Bundaberg Hospital Intensive Care Unit Clinical Director Dr Doug Wilkinson receiving his COVID-19 vaccine from Sherine Binder.

Queensland Health was responsible for vaccinating about 41,000 of Australia's highest priority Phase 1A group.

As of last week, six weeks into the rollout, every worker in that group had received at least one dose.

This group not only embraced doctors and nurses on the frontline looking after COVID-19 patients, but also quarantine hotel staff including cleaners, passenger transport drivers and police officers, border security workers, marine pilots and Queenslanders making up international aircrews.

 

 

And yes, it included wardies, the people responsible for transporting COVID-19 positive patients in hospitals - hard workers who are arguably as much at risk of catching the virus as doctors are. Possibly more so.

Yet they have rarely been afforded a mention when the so-called frontline health heroes have been talked about during the once-in-a-century pandemic.

Queensland Health's priority Phase 1A group has also included the pathology staff handling potential samples infected with the COVID-19 virus, workers manning fever and COVID testing clinics, researchers and scientists studying the virus and aeromedical teams, as well as the doctors and nurses working in emergency departments, infectious disease wards and intensive care units.

Cairns Hospital fever clinic nurse Christie King receives a COVID-19 vaccination from clinical nurse Camilla Clem. Picture: Brendan Radke
Cairns Hospital fever clinic nurse Christie King receives a COVID-19 vaccination from clinical nurse Camilla Clem. Picture: Brendan Radke

Scheduling entire hospital teams to be vaccinated on the same day, or even in the same week, fails to take into consideration the complexities of rostering and the known side effects of vaccinations.

Medical advice is that large numbers of highly trained health workers rostered in the same area of a hospital should not be vaccinated at once, given the potential risks of staff shortfalls if people have to take time off work due to minor side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, joint pain and flu-like symptoms, after receiving the jab.

With two new COVID clusters emerging from the Princess Alexandra Hospital last month, a razor-sharp focus has been on Queensland Health's vaccine rollout.

 

 

Just one of the four health care workers infected in those outbreaks had received a COVID-19 shot before catching the virus.

An unvaccinated nurse, involved in one of those clusters, spread the virus to friends at a Byron Bay hens' party and a Gold Coast stripper who entertained them.

What has been largely lost in the narrative around the stripper's infection was that he had been working at a Mermaid Beach aged care home before finding out he had the virus.

Fortunately, most of the residents at the aged care facility had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital, where two COVID-19 clusters emerged last month. Picture: Dan Peled
The Princess Alexandra Hospital, where two COVID-19 clusters emerged last month. Picture: Dan Peled

But Federal Health Department figures obtained last Thursday by The Courier-Mail has shown the Morrison Government rollout of COVID-19 vaccine to the "high-priority" aged care and disability accommodation sectors in Queensland is nowhere near complete.

While Queensland Health is delivering about 30 per cent of the state's COVID vaccinations, the Federal Government is rolling out 70 per cent of the shots.

Importantly, it's the Commonwealth that is responsible for vaccinating the state's vulnerable aged care and disability accommodation residents and nursing home staff.

That accounts for about 85,000 Queenslanders, yet as of last Thursday, Federal Health Department figures reveal just 22,600 shots had been administered to private nursing homes in the Sunshine State.

 

 

To ignore the pace of the Federal Government rollout is to turn a blind eye to the rights of arguably Queensland's most vulnerable residents - the frail aged and the severely disabled.

A breakout of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to unvaccinated residents in an aged care or disability facility would undoubtedly lead to deaths.

They must take priority and that's the responsibility of the Federal Government.

Queensland Health is expected to surpass its 100,000th COVID vaccination sometime today.

If the Federal Government had administered that many of the vaccines in Queensland, every person living in aged care or disability accommodation - as well as the workers looking after them - would have received at least one protective shot.

 

Originally published as We can't ignore Federal Government's vaccine shortfalls


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