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Only half of Victoria’s paramedics have been vaccinated as the state battles a fresh Covid outbreak, according to figures provided to Guardian Australia.
Ambulance Victoria has confirmed more than 3,000 doses of vaccine have been administered among a workforce of 6,000 paramedics and first responders. The organisation did not provide exact figures detailing how many staff had received one or two doses.
At the same time, it’s been revealed that very few prison guards or prisoners have been vaccinated in Victoria. It remains unclear how many police have been vaccinated in the state with the force declining to reveal any details about its inoculation program.
The Victorian government does not collect data on eligible state employees who are vaccinated outside their workplace.
Paramedics were in phase 1A of the vaccination program meaning they have been eligible since 22 February.
Ambulance Victoria would not say how many of its workplace it hoped to have vaccinated, when it planned to reach its target if it had one, and whether it was restricting the duties of non-vaccinated staff.
“Vaccination is an important part of our armour, protecting ourselves against coronavirus, and we urge all of our people to receive the jab, if able to do so,” Ambulance Victoria executive director Rebecca Hodges said.
“We will continue to work with our staff around optimising ongoing access to vaccination.”
Victorian Ambulance union secretary Danny Hill said paramedics had repeatedly said it was difficult to secure vaccination.
In some regional branches, paramedics would be told there was a possibility of securing a vaccine at a clinic or hospital a significant drive away, Hill said, only to be told there was none available once they arrived.
Paramedics in metropolitan branches were also finding it difficult to get a booking and were dealing with a significantly increased workload in recent months.
“It’s like fishing almost,” the union secretary said.
“You don’t know if you’re going to get a bite or not. We [also] have a major resourcing issue at the moment and the demand has been through the roof. So the last thing you feel like doing on your day off … is going to get a jab.”
Hill said about 35 paramedics contracted Covid-19 in Victoria in 2020. The sluggish vaccination rate was particularly concerning because paramedics frequently moved between high-risk settings such as hospitals and aged care centres, he said.
“They’re the low-hanging fruit: you want them all vaccinated because they could be the vector for large-scale transmission because of all the locations they visit.”
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said on 25 February that he expected phase 1A to be completed within six weeks.
Phase 1B started on 22 March, drastically increasing the number of doses available from 1.4m to 14.8m, according to the federal government’s vaccine roadmap.
A Victorian government spokesperson said corrections staff were able to get vaccinated under phase 1B but confirmed no workplace vaccination program had occurred.
The spokesperson said the government was managing the vaccine rollout in state and privately managed facilities – including youth detention and remand centres.
That means only prison workers vaccinated independently of their employment or prisoners vaccinated prior to being detained have received at least one dose.
An on-site prison vaccine program will start on Monday and is expected to take three months, the spokesperson said.
“Vaccines will be made available for as long as they are needed as part of the regular intake process.
“Corrections staff are eligible to receive the vaccine as part of the 1B cohort of the commonwealth vaccine rollout and have already been strongly encouraged to get vaccinated at state vaccination centres and general practice clinics.”
Police are also eligible under phase 1B which started on 22 March. But a Victoria police spokesperson said the force would not be providing a “running tally” of vaccination numbers.
They referred other questions – regarding tracking the vaccination rate of staff, any targets and whether un-vaccinated members were placed on restricted duties – to the Victorian health department.
About 800 police have been required to work in the state’s hotel quarantine program where all staff are required to be fully vaccinated.
But Guardian Australia understands the government is not currently tracking the number of public servants who are vaccinated independent of workplace vaccination programs. It is working with health officials to establish this database.
Prison staff vaccinated as part of the upcoming on-site program will have their status recorded, a government spokesperson confirmed.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: At least half of Victoria’s paramedics yet to receive Covid vaccine | Victoria