Aged care facilities could be in the dark on the number of their staff who've been vaccinated against COVID-19, information which authorities suggest would be essential in the event of an outbreak.
It is not mandatory for aged care homes to record how many of their workers have had a Covid vaccination, and health officials have confirmed there's no centralised database containing that information.
Peaked aged care body Leading Age Services Australia's chief executive Sean Rooney said the government could have had one, simply by introducing a "tick box" on the existing Australian Immunisation Register.
"Anybody that gets immunised in this country, whether it's a flu vaccination or a Covid vaccination, that is recorded on the [register]," he said.
"So there is a central database of immunisations, but the problem with the database is [that] it doesn't have a tick box for [aged care staff members].
"This is not new - government knows this - but that would be the place where you could report centrally on the amount of people vaccinated."
As a result of there being no central database on how many aged care workers had been vaccinated against Covid, health officials couldn't say during senate estimates on Tuesday how many had been vaccinated across the country overall.
They did, however, provide numbers for how many had been vaccinated with excess doses after residents during the Commonwealth aged care in-reach program. In the ACT as of May 30, nearly 650 aged care workers had been fully vaccinated.
Mr Rooney said the peak body had lobbied for the in-reach program to not just vaccinate staff when there were excess doses, but to make vaccinations available to all on-site staff.
"If that had have been put in place, then we would have been having all of those records collated and collected on site in the aged care homes, and then you would have absolute visibility around who has been vaccinated," he said.
Mr Rooney said aged care facilities should be collating information on how many of their staff had been vaccinated, regardless of reporting not being mandatory.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith also hoped for as much on Tuesday. She said while "it would be great" if the Commonwealth could provide concrete information about how many aged care workers had been vaccinated in each jurisdiction, it was important to be able to look at individual facilities.
"I think what would be really important is, in each specific residential aged care home and in each specific workforce, [finding out] who is working, are they vaccinated, and are they fully vaccinated? So, have they had one dose or two doses," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"Our health protection staff have worked very closely with all residential aged care facilities in the ACT to ensure that they have strong infection prevention and control measures in place and that their outbreak planning is really solid."
Mr Rooney said the facilities he had spoken to were keeping track of how many staff had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, it was essentially down to individual homes to go around and ask their staff whether they'd been vaccinated, given they could have received an inoculation at their general practice or nearby vaccine clinic among other places.
Canberra Aged Care Facility director Clayton Hutchinson had ascertained about 60 per cent of his 120 staff had been vaccinated against COVID-19 because of conversations following the in-reach visits.
About 35 workers at the facility received Covid vaccines during as part of the in-reach program.
"We haven't been asked to keep the information because it's not relevant to the day to day operation of the business because [Covid vaccines] aren't mandatory," Mr Hutchinson said.
"If the vaccines were mandatory, everyone would have that information on their books because they'd have to [in order] to keep the doors open."
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