Mandatory one-shot vaccination for all aged care workers comes into effect this week and Illawarra aged care providers are almost there.
As part of the #vaxtheillawarra initiative, IRT Group chief executive Patrick Reid has been encouraging people in the sector to get vaccinated.
Mr Reid said unless they had an exemption, aged care workers needed to have had at least one dose to be able to work. He said take-up was quick at IRT's Sydney facilities and was over 85 per cent in the Illawarra.
He said a backlog in data meant the My Gov Register and the Australian Immunisation Register were behind in reporting the actual vaccination figures so the onus was on aged care providers to make sure they had all the evidence required before Friday.
"We are now ringing all our staff directly to get them to tell us where they are at and then working through that. We have quite a number of sites now that are at 100 per cent. And as new staff come in we have to make sure they are vaccinated," he said.
For all 20 IRT aged care centres in NSW, QLD and ACT the overall vaccination rate of staff having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine is 93 per cent and Illawarra sites range from 85 per cent to 100 per cent.
Despite some delays, the latest figures on an interactive map showing vaccination rates of residential aged care workers across Australia show more than 90 per cent of aged care workers in the Wollongong, Eurobodalla, Wingecarribee and Bega local government areas have had at least one dose, while in Shellharbour, Kiama and the Shoalhaven it is between 80 and 89 per cent.
Mr Reid said IRT had seen a similar trend south of Wollongong but that had more to do with access to vaccine clinics than anything else. He said pharmacies coming on line would help address that issue.
"We have been focusing on the Shoalhaven region and the Far South Coast pretty strongly because of that."
Mr Reid said many small aged care providers already had 100 per cent of their staff vaccinated. He said at IRT a few employees had opted out and that meant they would not be able to work in care centres from Friday.
"We are concerned for those staff. Most of them have let us know if they have concerns about the process or the vaccine or if they are a conscientious objector to the whole process. Another struggle will be those we can't get the evidence for or aren't responding to calls for evidence. They will be stood down from the 17th because with the Public Health Order they can't enter an aged care facility. We will work with them for a resolution around that."
Mr Reid said he advocated for the mandatory vaccination of aged care workers because it would save lives.
"Since COVID vaccines had become available IRT has been talking to our staff, our residents and their next of kin about vaccinations. And we have had a really good uptake by residents," he said.
"With next of kin, a lot of them understand the importance of it to keep loved ones safe. A huge number of next of kin are fully vaccinated. They are waiting for the restrictions to lift so they can see their loved ones."
Mr Reid said the path out of lockdown was vaccination and the best vaccine to get was the one that was available. He said for those employees who were exempt from getting a vaccine, precautions would be put in place so they could work in some capacity.
"And we have introduced rapid antigen testing across all our sites."