Huge numbers of Australian aged care workers remain unvaccinated and frustrated by the federal government’s confused, flawed rollout in the sector, a new staff survey suggests.

Aged care workers were initially part of the highest priority stage of the vaccine rollout, phase 1a, and were to be vaccinated on site at their facilities from February.

That plan is now in tatters. Aged care workers have either been left reliant on spare vaccines from residents, given confusing advice, or told to expect pop-up vaccination hubs which never materialised.

The federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy conceded on Tuesday that there was a “significant amount of work” still to do in vaccinating aged care workers.

That has been backed up by a new survey of 254 aged care workers conducted by their union, the United Workers Union, and released on Wednesday.

The survey found 85% had not received their first Covid-19 vaccination.

About 158 workers from more than 50 employers, including major providers BlueCare, Aegis, and Southern Cross Care, said their facilities were only offering workers Pfizer vaccines leftover after the vaccination of residents.

Fifteen of the workers were told to go to their GPs for their second dose, despite GPs only stocking the AstraZeneca vaccine.

About 60% of the workers described the rollout as “very poor”. Another 36 workers said it had been “poor”. When asked to mark the performance of the rollout, aged care workers gave it an average score of 3.5 from 10.

The UWU aged care director, Carolyn Smith, said the results suggested a “total collapse” of the initial rollout plans.

“These findings raise real questions about the way aged care workers are treated in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout,” she said. “If the goal is to protect older Australians and aged care workers, these survey findings suggest Covid-19 vaccinations in aged care are not happening fast enough, widely enough or well enough.”

The survey collected a range of comments from de-identified workers, which were scathing of the workout.

One worker from Western Australia said: “I am highly upset and frustrated with how aged care workers haven’t been given what we were promised. Are we not important enough to get it?”

Another from Queensland said it was “outrageous” that the government was not vaccinating workers, when they were the most likely transmission route into aged care.

A second West Australian worker said: “Personally I feel like I am nothing in this industry. I don’t understand how the vaccine could be given to the elderly and not the carers.”

The government is also facing criticism for the progress in disability care, which was also part of phase 1a.

The health department associate secretary, Caroline Edwards, said on Tuesday that just 1,448 disability care residents had received their first doses and 192 had received their second. It was described as “a very minor part of our program to date”.

The government said it decided to prioritise aged care residents due to the higher risk they faced from Covid-19.

“When we discovered aged care was more difficult, we did focus on aged care,” she said. “Not because people with a disability are any less of a priority, but the experience of Covid-19 has been that the absolutely greatest risk are elderly in aged care.”

The UWU survey also highlighted staffing problems in aged care at the time vaccinations were scheduled. Roughly one third of the survey respondents said understaffing was a problem on the day residents received their vaccination.

This content first appear on the guardian

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