Victoria recruits 1000 booster vaccinators

Emily Woods |

Victoria will recruit 1000 people to administer COVID-19 vaccines, including first-year health students and retired nurses, to bolster its booster rollout.

The state on Wednesday recorded 40,127 new cases and 21 deaths.

The new infections include 18,434 from rapid antigen tests and 21,693 from PCR tests, the Health Department said.

The number of people in hospital jumped to 946, 85 more than the previous day, with 112 in ICU and 31 requiring ventilation.

The state is managing 209,715 active cases.

Acting Health Minister James Merlino said the government was recruiting 1000 people as it ramps up the state’s booster vaccination program. 

“There are over one million Victorians currently eligible for their third dose and thousands of appointments currently available,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“However, very soon, that number of eligible Victorians for their third dose is going to increase dramatically as they get to that four-month mark from the second dose.

“And Victoria, to deal with that demand, is recruiting a new pool of vaccinators.”

First year health students – as well as retired nurses – are encouraged to apply for one of the new positions, with applications opening next week.

The vaccinators will be required to complete Commonwealth and Victorian vaccination training and a COVID-19 Clinical Skills and Competencies Assessment.

They will not be responsible for establishing patient consent and will only be authorised to vaccinate people over 18. 

About 18 per cent of people over 18 have received their booster as the state opposition pointed out the rollout has been slower than planned.

On January 4 the state government said 300,000 Victorians would receive their booster each week when it unveiled plans for a summer vaccination blitz.

However, state hubs only managed to deliver 125,000 doses at the end of week one.

Further, IT issues at the Royal Exhibition Centre hub forced healthcare staff to fill out registration and vaccine forms by hand, leading to lengthy queues.

The opposition is calling for a 24-hour hub to allow more people to get vaccinated out of hours and for pop-up clinics in local suburbs and summer holiday hotspots.

Meanwhile, the virus is impacting staffing at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, which operates triple zero, with the service receiving an unprecedented number of calls.

Ambulance triple zero calls are averaging more than 3000 a day, compared to 2400 in August.

The surge reflects increasing pressure on the health system, including the cumulative impact of people delaying medical help since the start of the pandemic and triple zero being used for non-emergency situations.

An increase in mental health-related emergencies and rising cases and hospitalisations are also blamed for the increasing demand.

An ESTA spokesman said more than one-in-five calls to triple zero did not need an emergency ambulance response.

Ambulance Victoria has issued its second code red alert in a week due to extreme demand.