Aged care workers likely to get mandatory COVID shot

Refusal could lead to re-assignment

Aged care workers likely to get mandatory COVID shot

Employees at elderly care facilities may soon be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The move is in support of wider public health efforts to protect older Australians against the coronavirus. The proposal came about following concerns over the country’s pandemic response and speed of its vaccination drive.

At present, 75% of Australia’s elderly care homes, or more than 1,900 have completed their two-dose vaccination regimen. Meanwhile, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has been asked to reconsider its stance against vaccinating all care home employees. Initial instructions did not explicitly say vaccination was mandatory.

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However, a review of existing immunisation policies could result in mandatory vaccinations for aged care workers, especially amid the rising number of new cases. “It’s only in the last week that we have seen that community transmission,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said. “This is a very recent, but rapid phenomenon.”

Clare O’Neil, which represents Labor in aged care services, believes the government should devise a plan that guarantees all care home workers will get a shot. “What everyone wants to see is clear targets put in place for this crucial area of our workforce,” O’Neil said on Afternoon Briefing. “What is the point of vaccinating hundreds of thousands of aged care residents, when the people who are coming in and out of the facilities every day have not been vaccinated?”

Read more: COVID-19: Should vaccine be mandatory in these sectors?

Epidemiologist Marylouise McLaws supports the idea of requiring COVID-19 vaccination among care workers, especially those dealing with elderly patients. “I believe people should have a choice, but not when they work with vulnerable people, disability patients and they work in a quarantine facility,” she said. “If they really have a problem with vaccines … and they do not want to be vaccinated, they need to be offered a job outside of these areas.”

As immunisation efforts continue across Australia, aged care minister Richard Colbeck said he was unsure how many care home workers have been inoculated.

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