AHPPC notes mandating a COVID-19 vaccination for aged care in-home and community aged care workers providing services to senior Australians provides an important protection for vulnerable senior Australians during this emergency.
AHPPC recommends the following national framework for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for in-home and community care, be established under state and territory public health. Further, AHPPC recommends the first dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine by 30 November 2021 and a second dose by 31 December 2021. AHPPC also recognises that some jurisdictions may introduce requirements that come into effect earlier or go beyond arrangements outlined in this statement. The implementation of these requirements may also differ between jurisdictions depending on their public health legislation.
The recommended scope for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements includes:
- All Commonwealth funded aged care service providers delivering in-home and community aged care services including:
- Home Care Packages
- Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program home care services
- Short-Term Restorative Care
- Transition Care Program
- Multi-Purposes Services
- All full-time, part-time and casual staff employed or engaged by the Commonwealth funded service provider, including sub-contractors and volunteers (proposed definition below).
- Workers and volunteers in all roles delivered by the Commonwealth funded aged care service provider, including those that provide care and services in and around clients’ homes, in the community and organisational administration.
2. Definition of in-home and community aged care worker for Commonwealth funded aged care services
The recommended definition of in-home and community aged care workers for Commonwealth funded aged care services is:
In-home and community aged care worker means a person who is providing “flexible care”, “home care” or “services” for or on behalf of:
- an “approved provider” for whom a flexible care subsidy is payable in respect of services delivered outside of a residential care setting or home care subsidy is payable under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth); or
- a “service provider” of a Commonwealth-funded aged care service as defined in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Act 2018, delivering services outside of a residential aged care setting.
- the “approved provider” definition captures Home Care and non-residential Short-Term Restorative Care, Multi-Purpose Services and Transition Care
- the “service provider” definition captures the non-residential National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program and Commonwealth Home Support Program (grant funded services, not under the Aged Care Act).
This definition should be considered in the context of existing Public Health Orders relating to residential aged care, noting flexible care services and services under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program can include care delivered in a residential care setting and care delivered outside of a residential care setting, including in-home and community aged care services.
It is recommended public health orders place an obligation on the individual worker as well as on the aged care provider:
- on the worker to inform their employer of their vaccination status.
- on the aged care provider to ensure that they allow only people who have been vaccinated to provide care or services for clients.
- on the aged care provider to keep records of having sighted evidence of, or verified, workers’ vaccination status.
It is recommended that exemptions are limited and consistent with the national framework endorsed by AHPPC for residential aged care workers.
- Medical exemptions will be in line with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) clinical guidance on COVID-19 vaccine in Australia in 2021.
- Selected medical 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 recognised overseas vaccination.
- Temporary exemptions may apply where there is a demonstrated issue with access and supply or where compliance with the mandatory vaccination requirements will undermine the quality of care for clients.
- Exemptions on religious, political, and personal grounds are not an allowable exemption.
Aged care in-home and community aged care workers will need to provide evidence to their employer that a medical exemption has been granted.
Read previous statements from the AHPPC.