Influenza vaccination is particularly important this year. With the easing of international and domestic public health measures arising from the COVID-19 global pandemic, cases of influenza are expected in 2022, with the Australian community potentially more vulnerable to the virus this winter.
The recent Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) statement on winter season preparedness strongly recommends that vaccination remains one of the most effective protective factors for both COVID-19 and influenza. Both vaccines are recommended for residents ahead of the winter season. It is also important that residents and staff are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations. For residents and other vulnerable groups, it is also recommended that an additional COVID-19 dose be received ahead of winter. Influenza vaccines can be safely given on the same day as COVID-19 vaccines.
Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and over (unless contraindicated). Free influenza vaccinations are available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people most at risk, including all eligible residents aged 65 years and older.
From Monday 4 April 2022, influenza vaccines for the NIP will become available, subject to local supply arrangements in states and territories.
More information on access to influenza vaccinations through the NIP can be found Department's website. Promotional materials including posters and brochures are available from the 2022 influenza resource collection.
What you need to do
The AHPPC also notes that aged care providers must have arrangements in place for the delivery of influenza vaccines for their residents and staff. This includes making sure processes are in place, engaging with your immunisation providers and discussing the program with staff, residents and their families. This is a requirement to comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards.
Your service must take precautions to prevent and control influenza and minimise infection-related risks. This includes:
- identifying and complying with all relevant Commonwealth and state or territory legislation and regulatory requirements
- having an effective infection prevention and control program that is in line with national guidelines
- offering free flu vaccinations every year to your staff and volunteers and keeping records of their vaccinations.
You must also demonstrate:
- how you have promoted and informed your staff and volunteers about the benefits of vaccination, including obtaining consent
- the steps you have taken to encourage staff and volunteers to get vaccinated.
For more information, refer to the Quality of Care Principles 2014 and the Records Principles 2014.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission assesses compliance with the influenza vaccination program.
For those not eligible for NIP funded vaccines, influenza vaccines are now available through private market arrangements. If you have not already done so, you are strongly encouraged to implement arrangements to ensure you meet the requirements set out in the legislation – including working with your immunisation providers to facilitate staff vaccinations.
If you require assistance in organising influenza vaccinations, contact your vaccination provider or your state or territory Department of Health as soon as possible.
AHPPC advice for aged care workers
AHPPC recently noted that there are a range of methods, including improving access and enhanced monitoring and reporting, that are likely to be successful in increasing influenza vaccination coverage among health care, aged care and disability workers, without the need to mandate influenza vaccination (which are not considered justifiable in many jurisdictions).
You are still strongly encouraged to understand the requirements established in the state or territory where you operate – noting these can change at any time. More information can be found on your state and territory health departments websites.
Please make sure you stay up to date with requirements in your state or territory as these requirements are often subject to change.
Deployment of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for residential aged care facilities
As part of the department’s winter preparedness, packs of the prescription-only medication, Tamiflu, will be deployed to residential aged care services from mid-April 2022. This includes residential aged care facilities (RACFs, multi-purpose services (MPS), and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) services for both residents and staff.
Tamiflu is an oral antiviral used to treat influenza A and B infections. Treatment should commence as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after the onset of the initial symptoms.
Labelled packs sent to RACFs will include instructions for use and storage.
The deployment of Tamiflu follows the preplacement of molnupiravir (Lagevrio), an oral treatment for COVID-19, which was preplaced in RACFs in February 2022 for resident use only. Lagevrio is now listed on the PBS.
For more information about influenza.
Stay up to date
To stay up to date on information for aged care, you can: