8 Apr 2021

Rest homes still waiting for Covid-19 vaccination start date

7:57 pm on 8 April 2021

Rest homes around the country are still waiting for a start date for Covid-19 vaccinations, despite being in a priority group that should be getting the jab about now.

Nurse serving food in rest home for elderly.

File image. Photo: 123RF

The Aged Care Association represents about 90 percent of rest homes in New Zealand and it wants certainty around the rollout, saying it is juggling flu jabs too.

Chief executive Simon Wallace told Checkpoint the association has about 35,000 residents and just as many staff due vaccinations, but only a handful had the Covid-19 jab so far.

"Like everyone we would like the rollout to move more quickly. It's certainly started in some regions, for example Nelson started a week ago.

"With the trans-Tasman bubble and quarantine-free travel upon us, that actually just raises the risk profile of our vulnerable people even more, and really emphasises the need to get moving with the rollout.

"Our rest homes are ready. They're ready and they're waiting to hear from the DHBs.

"What we don't have and what we need actually are dates for rollouts by individual DHBs. This has been one of the frustrating things for aged residential care. And the reason it's frustrating is we've also got the flu vaccine rollout happening at the same time as Covid-19, and there needs to be a 14-day gap between the first Covid-19 vaccination and the second dose.

"So we want to know what the timeframes are so that our providers can manage both the Covid-19 vaccinations, and the influenza vaccinations, as they should.

"What we have agreed with the ministry and the DHBs is that all our all our residents will be vaccinated on site at their rest home, and that's absolutely critical because they are frail and they have a number of health conditions, and we have had confirmation that all our residents will be vaccinated and their rest homes."

Rest homes had extra factors to take into account that the general population did not, Wallace said.

"For example, around enduring powers of attorney for our dementia units and that requires processes that we have to go through with families, and we've already done that. So we've got that in train, and we're ready.

"Covid is still coming into the country ... and I think that just emphasises the risks that we still have, and the need to get our vulnerable population and the people that look after them vaccinated."

The association had received an indication from the Ministry of Health that vaccinations would be completed by the end of May or beginning of June for residents and staff, Wallace said.

"We would like to get individual dates from DHBs for rollout, because it will help us to manage those issues that we have around flu and the meeting space the flu and Covid vaccines, and we are pushing really hard on a daily basis with the ministry in the DHBs to get certainty around dates."

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