The federal government does not know how many of Australia’s 130,000 home care workers have been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Health officials confirmed at a Senate hearing on Wednesday no vaccination data had been collected on staff visiting people’s homes.
A new system will start to collect information from providers who from Friday will voluntarily send vaccination numbers before it becomes mandatory later in the year.
“We’ll get good data from this portal for residential aged care workers and then we will get good data for home care workers,” health secretary Brendan Murphy said.
“Our priority has not changed. It’s to protect those vulnerable to severe disease.”
Professor Murphy said the expert group of immunisation advisers recommended putting home care workers in the second part of the first rollout phase.
“Home care workers are like other healthcare workers and they are eligible in 1b,” he said.
“They have been eligible as other health care workers are to go and get vaccination through other multiple points of presence.”
The same data collection method will determine how many residential aged care workers have been vaccinated.
Less than 10 per cent of the 236,000 residential staff have been administered two jabs through federal visits to aged care facilities but an accurate number of vaccinations is also unknown.
Prof Murphy pointed to anecdotal data from some nursing homes that reported around half of the workforce had been vaccinated.
The nurses’ union is urging Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck to resign for failing to take full responsibility for vaccinating workers.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said the federal government promised to vaccinate the aged care workforce through an in-reach program.
“Don’t blame staff for not being vaccinated when you never told them you had no intention to vaccinate them at their workplace,” she said.
“We’re calling on Senator Colbeck to resign. We need a minister who gets things done with a sense of urgency, care and respect for the residents and the dedicated staff.”
Health official Michael Lye said residential care was considered higher risk than home workers based on last year’s coronavirus death toll.
“The number of deaths in residential aged care, it was a function of the vulnerability and the congregation of people in one location,” he told the hearing.
“Vaccination is one line of defence that has been employed during COVID.
“In home care there is also a series of measures that have been undertaken to protect residents from the potential spread of COVID, which are employed alongside vaccination.”
He said the focus was vaccinating residential aged care workers.
Of Australia’s 910 deaths, 685 have been nursing home residents.