Government urged to expand vaccine mandate to disability support workers

Australian unions are calling for immediate change

Government urged to expand vaccine mandate to disability support workers

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) is urging the government to mandate vaccines for disability support workers amid the threat of the Delta variant. Only one-third of support workers are fully vaccinated, according to the CHA. The group argues that as their line of work requires them to travel around the community, jabs should be made mandatory. Rebecca Burdick Davies, CHA director of mission and strategy, said with the new vaccine doses arriving in Australia, there should be no more excuses.

"We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our community and we can start by requiring our staff to be vaccinated,” she explained. “These workers are going into people's homes and moving around the community – it is part of their job description. Their place of work is the community and we have learned that the Delta variant spreads rapidly via mobile workforces.”

The association penned a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison as well as Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds calling for change.

"Every day we delay is another day where people living with a disability and the people that care for them are exposed to unnecessary risk," she said.

Davies added that if workers in residential aged care are mandated to get the jabs, so too should disability support workers. CHA represents Australia's largest non-government grouping of hospitals, aged, and community care services.

Read more: NSW mandates COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers

Deadline looms for residential aged care workers

Meanwhile, the deadline for vaccinations of residential aged workers is closing in – however, 11% have yet be vaccinated.  A spokesperson from the Department of Health told the Australian Ageing Agenda that 89% of aged care workers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Deadline for their vaccination is on September 17, as Morrison announced back in June, with the vaccines a condition of employment, according to the Health Department. Workers may also apply for $80 per dose for offsite vaccination and a day of paid leave if they feel unwell after getting the jabs.

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