Important advice has been provided today to all residential aged care providers and facility IPC leads and managers on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in residential aged care.
The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP and the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck underlined the critical importance providers play in supporting and facilitating COVID-19 vaccination of their workforce ahead of the 17 September requirement. All workers in residential aged care must receive at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by that time.
The mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be implemented through state and territory public health orders. So far, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland have issued orders.
Victoria’s Department of Health has notified providers they need to ensure workers are vaccinated by Thursday 16 September. The scope of mandatory vaccination for Victorian workers is expected to adhere to the framework endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee earlier this month.
Other states and territories are expected to release their orders soon. It is expected that exemptions to the vaccination mandate will be limited across jurisdictions. Further information, including those public health orders released to date, is available at mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in residential aged care.
There are a range of mechanisms in place to support workers to receive their vaccine well ahead of the mid-September deadline:
- All residential aged care workers have been prioritised to receive the Pfizer vaccine irrespective of their age.
- On-site vaccination clinics are being offered to all residential aged care facilities delivered by Commonwealth vaccine providers, GPs and aged care providers. In addition, dedicated vaccination hubs, state and territory, and primary care clinics will all make vaccination of residential aged care workers a priority.
- Casual workers are entitled to financial support via their employer should they receive their vaccine at an offsite clinic or feel unwell afterwards.
Providers have been urged to provide strong leadership in encouraging vaccination by the deadline and were reminded of their legal obligation to ensure the safe, effective and quality delivery of personal and clinical care in accordance with the requirements of the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Quality of Care Principles 2014.
The obligation for providers to report weekly on vaccination rates was highlighted and their efforts to report even more regularly encouraged as greater numbers of staff are vaccinated in the lead up to the deadline. Regular reporting will be crucial in coming weeks to have a clear picture of vaccination numbers and to be able to provide additional support as and where necessary.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Ms Janet Anderson PSM has advised that any providers who are failing to report on vaccination rates, or who are reporting low vaccination levels, will be assessed as higher risk. The Commission will consider this assessment alongside other data to identify high risk providers and has noted that any such providers will be subject to targeted Infection Control Spot Checks, performance assessments and/or as part of a full quality or review audit.
The severe impact of COVID-19 on older people is now well known. The role of providers in ensuring their workforce is vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible is critical.
Vaccination is the best protection from hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.