What residential aged care providers and workers need to know about mandatory COVID 19 vaccination

All residential aged care workers should provide evidence of their COVID‑19 vaccination, or authorised exemption to a vaccination, to their employer before 17 September 2021.

Date published:
Subscriber announcement
Health sector

Currently 89% of residential aged care workers are reported by providers as having received a first dose COVID‑19 vaccine, of which 68% are reported as being fully vaccinated.

Next Friday, 17 September 2021, it becomes mandatory under state and territory public health orders for residential aged care workers to have received at least a first dose of a COVID‑19 vaccine.

All residential aged care workers should provide evidence of their COVID‑19 vaccination, or authorised exemption to a vaccination, to their employer before 17 September 2021.

Providers should also keep a record of workers’ vaccination status, in line with the direction set out in the relevant state or territory public health order.

All residential aged care providers are required now to report on the number of workers with an authorised exemption as part of your weekly reporting via My Aged Care, and are strongly encouraged to keep your workforce vaccination data up to date on a daily basis in the lead up to 17 September.

Where can I find the Public Health Order for my State or Territory?

Public Health Orders (PHOs) for all States and Territories can be found online at the Mandatory COVID‑19 vaccination in residential aged care page on the department’s website.

Public Health Orders (or Directions) explain how the vaccination mandate will apply to residential aged care providers in your state or territory.

All providers and workers are encouraged to review the public health order relevant to their jurisdiction to understand the scope of mandatory vaccination as well as the limited exemptions that may apply.

All providers should now be confirming with their workforce whether they have received their minimum first dose of a COVID‑19 vaccine.

All workers should now be providing evidence to their employer of their vaccination status.

Do workers need to provide evidence of their vaccination status?

Yes. Workers should provide evidence of their COVID‑19 vaccination status, or of an authorised exemption to vaccination, to their employer before 17 September.

There are two ways workers can provide evidence of their vaccination status:

  • Immunisation History Statement – this displays all vaccinations or medical contraindications and authorised exemptions, including COVID‑19, that have been reported to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). All vaccine providers must upload vaccinations to the AIR.
  • COVID-19 Digital Certificate – this is for individuals who have received all required doses of a COVID‑19 vaccine in Australia.

You can access your Immunisation History Statement:

  • online, by setting up your own myGov account and then accessing your Medicare online account; or
  • through the Express Plus Medicare mobile app; or
  • by calling the Australian Immunisation Register enquiries line on 1800 653 809 (8am-5pm, Monday to Friday AEST) and asking them to send your statement to you. Please allow up to 14 days to receive your statement in the post; or
  • by asking your doctor or vaccination provider to print a copy of your statement for you.

People do not need to have a Medicare card to be able to access their Immunisation History Statement.

A fact sheet is available for all residential aged care workers on how to prove their COVID‑19 vaccination status, including step by step guides on how to create a myGov account - How residential aged care workers can prove your COVID-19 vaccination status to your employer.

What if a worker’s vaccination status is not appearing on their Immunisation History Statement?

Some workers may be unable to produce their Immunisation History Statement if they were only vaccinated in the days leading up to the 17 September deadline. This could be because the vaccine provider has not uploaded the person’s vaccination record to the Australian Immunisation Register.

If your workforce was vaccinated on site by a Commonwealth vaccine provider, and a worker’s vaccination status is not yet appearing on their Immunisation History Statement, please email the Department at VAS.contracts.COVID-19@health.gov.au and we will follow up immediately with the vaccine provider. You will need to provide the individual’s full name, Medicare number and date of vaccination at your facility.

If a worker was vaccinated at an alternate site, such as a GP or state and territory run clinic, providers should assist their workers in contacting the vaccine provider and requesting the vaccination record be uploaded to their Immunisation History Statement.

What if a worker can’t provide their Immunisation History Statement by 17 September?

If a worker is unable to get a copy of their Immunisation History Statement prior to 17 September, they should:

  • advise their employer where and when they received their first dose COVID‑19 vaccination, and
  • provide alternate evidence such as proof of their vaccination appointment or a signed declaration that they have received a minimum first dose.

Workers must then provide a copy of their Immunisation History Statement, or show their COVID‑19 Digital Certificate as soon as possible.

Providers should record the worker as being vaccinated but is responsible for following up to ensure the worker provides the required proof of vaccination.

What if a worker cannot get vaccinated before the 17 September deadline?

Your state or territory Public Health Order will provide direction on whether or not the worker will qualify for a temporary exemption due to an inability to access a COVID-19 vaccine before the 17 September deadline.

Any exemption will need to be provided by your State or Territory’s health authority. The worker may be required to provide evidence before 17 September of an appointment to get vaccinated.

All residential aged workers currently have priority access to receive a Pfizer vaccination across all available channels. This includes on-site clinics, dedicated hubs in your community, primary care clinics and state and territory run clinics.

Workers are encouraged to seek the support of their employer to receive their vaccine now. All providers must support their workers to access a COVID‑19 vaccine.

Providers are requested to contact their local Primary Health Network as quickly as possible if you need help in assisting your workers to access a vaccine appointment.

What do workers need to take to their vaccination appointment?

Residential aged care workers can confirm their eligibility for priority vaccination by providing the following documents:

  • proof of identity (e.g. driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate) and
  • proof of employment (e.g. one of the following)
    • letter from your employer confirming you have priority access
    • current work ID card or payslip confirming you are currently employed at a residential aged care facility, and
    • Medicare card, if you have one.

What do I need to know about exemptions to mandatory vaccination?

In a very narrow set of circumstances, a temporary exemption may apply if an aged care worker can demonstrate every effort to access a vaccination by 17 September 2021 but is unable to due to supply or access limitations.

This will be a matter for individual states and territories, including determining the process for applying for and approving exemptions based on the relevant processes and decision-making bodies in each jurisdiction. We will publish more information on the department's website as it becomes available.

In these cases, the Commonwealth should be made aware of the application of these exemptions and will utilise existing channels to ensure vaccination as quickly as possible. Once this occurs, the exemption should be revoked.

The AHPPC recommended medical exemptions to align with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) clinical guidance on COVID‑19 vaccine in Australia in 2021.

All temporary and permanent medical exemptions must be authorised by a medical practitioner.

None of the public health directions released to date have allowed exemptions on religious, political or personal grounds.

As employers, residential aged care providers should carefully consider the formal public health orders and directions applicable to them in each of the relevant states and territories that their facilities operate.

While individuals are personally responsible for complying with the mandatory COVID‑19 vaccination requirements, providers must also take reasonable steps to ensure non-compliant workers do not enter and remain at their facility.

Providers should undertake a case-by-case assessment to take into account its workplace, its workers and the nature of the work they perform. Providers are encouraged to review information on the Fair Work Australia website which steps out COVID‑19 vaccinations, workplace rights and obligations.

How can a worker prove they have an authorised exemption to COVID‑19 vaccination?

There are only limited exemptions to receiving a COVID‑19 vaccination if you work in residential aged care. For more information visit your state or territory department of health website to understand what exemption documentation is required.

Each state or territory public health order on COVID‑19 mandatory vaccination in residential aged care will provide direction on what exemptions may be considered. The public health order will also provide direction on the evidence workers must provide to their employer as proof of an authorised exemption to a COVID‑19 vaccine.

Authorised Medical practitioners (including General Practitioners) can notify the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) of an individual who has a vaccine exemption due to medical contraindications or natural immunity which will be displayed on an individual’s Immunisation History Statement (IHS). This includes permanent vaccine exemption or temporary vaccine exemption until a specified date due to acute major illness, significant immunocompromise of short duration and pregnancy.

Top 3 residential aged care worker questions - video

Professor Michael Kidd AM, the Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer answers the top 3 questions asked by residential aged care workers.

These include:

  1. Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women?
  2. Can you get a COVID-19 vaccine without a Medicare Card?
  3. What are the vaccine exemptions for residential aged care workers?

Please share the video with your workforce and networks.

Resources for workers:

Resources for providers and facility managers and IPC leads: