COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers

What's new: AHPPC recommends national mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care worker, Workforce vaccination rates to be reported publicly and more.

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Health sector

AHPPC recommends national mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has recommended mandating COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers nationally. As with the mandate for residential aged care workers, only very limited exemptions are recommended.

You can read the AHPPC’s statement on mandatory vaccination of in home and community aged care workers.

The AHPPC recommends a national framework for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for in-home and community care be established under state and territory public health orders.

The AHPPC also recommends the first dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine by 30 November 2021 and a second dose by 31 December 2021.

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.

AHPPC also recognises that some jurisdictions may introduce, or have introduced, requirements that come into effect earlier or go beyond arrangements outlined in its statement. The implementation of these requirements may also differ between jurisdictions depending on their public health legislation.

Victoria, the Northern Territory, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia have already mandated COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers.

If your state or territory mandates COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers, they may be required to provide proof of their vaccination status.

Please refer to your state and territory public health directions for guidance.

The department has hosted webinars for jurisdictions as public health directions have been issued. You can watch the NSW, NT, Victorian and ACT webinars for in home and community aged care workers on the department's website. The SA webinar is being held next week and information will be provided shortly.

Workforce vaccination rates to be reported publicly

From Wednesday 17 November 2021, workforce vaccination data reported by all in-home aged care providers via My Aged Care will be publicly available on the Department of Health’s website.

The public reporting will list each in-home aged care provider and report on the percentage of workers partially vaccinated (first dose) and fully vaccinated (two doses). Public reporting on residential aged care workforce vaccination data is already available on the health.gov.au website.

Data suppression techniques will be applied, and the data will be banded into ranges (eg 90-100% of workers are partially vaccinated) with the range being determined by the number of workers at each outlet:

  • Providers with less than 5 staff are listed as having “confidentially applied” and no data is reported
  • 5-10 staff have a 50% banding (ie 0-49.9% and 50-100%)
  • 11-15 staff have 33% banding
  • 16-20 staff have 20% banding
  • More than 20 staff have 10% banding.

The data will be presented as a downloadable Excel spreadsheet. It will be updated weekly to reflect data reported by providers via My Aged Care, in accordance with the mandatory weekly reporting cycle.

Workforce vaccination data for Commonwealth Home Support Programme providers will not be publicly reported at this time due to the later commencement date of mandatory reporting for those providers, but may be considered in the future.

All in-home and community aged care providers are strongly encouraged to ensure their workforce vaccination data is current and accurately reported weekly via the My Aged Care provider portal on:

  • total number of workers at each aged care service and, of those,
  • number of workers at each service who have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and
  • number of workers at each service who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Providers that do not meet their reporting requirements may face regulatory action by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

See the Quick Reference Guide on how to view and update your COVID-19 vaccination data.

For more information, such as who to include in your reporting and how to report across multiple outlets and services, please visit the department’s Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting page.

New reporting requirements on workforce vaccination exemptions via My Aged Care

From 16 November 2021, in-home and community aged care providers are strongly encouraged to report workforce vaccination exemption data via the My Aged Care portal, where public health orders are in place mandating vaccination for this workforce.

While exemption reporting will initially be voluntary, it will become a mandatory requirement in the coming weeks.

Exemption categories to report against via My Aged Care are:

  • a permanent medical exemption authorised by a medical practitioner
  • a temporary medical exemption authorised by a medical practitioner
  • where applicable, an authorised temporary exemption from your state/territory public health authority, due to the inability to access a COVID-19 vaccine
  • where applicable, an authorised temporary exemption due to a critical workforce shortage, to maintain the provision of quality of care or to protect the health and safety of residents, or
  • an authorised exemption related to another category in the relevant state or territory public health order.

Each state or territory public health orders will provide direction on the evidence required to be provided by workers to their employer as proof their authorised exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine. Refer to your state or territory department of health website for more information.

Providers will need to report on exemptions in line with the public health order in their jurisdiction.

From 16 November 2021, in-home and community aged care providers will also be able to report on workers’ booster doses.

There will be other minor changes to the wording for the current data points to take account of the additional reporting. For example “all required doses” will become “second doses”.

More detailed guidance on the My Aged Care changes will be issued shortly.

Home Care Packages COVID-19 Vaccination Support Grant

The Australian Government has announced a total of $20 million in 2021-22 for the Home Care Packages Program COVID-19 Vaccination Support Grant (Grant).

The Grant will provide additional financial support for Home Care Package (HCP) providers to increase COVID-19 vaccination of the in-home and community aged care workforce and to report on the workforce vaccination status through the My Aged Care Portal.

Providers will be able to use the Grant to cover costs incurred between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022.

The Grant opened on Friday 5 November 2021 and will be open until 28 January 2022. Providers who apply before 2pm AEDT 18 November 2021 will receive an offer in December 2021 with first payments made on execution of the grant. All approved providers with HCP recipients are eligible to apply.

Grants will be offered at a provider level (not for each service outlet) with capped funding based on the number of HCP recipients in your care at 5 November 2021.

For the grant opportunity guidelines and frequently asked questions, see the Grant Opportunity (GO5126) on GrantConnect.

CHSP Emergency Support for COVID-19 Ad Hoc Grant

Under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) Emergency Support for COVID-19 Ad Hoc Round (GO3877), $48.8 million is available in 2021-22 which includes $13.8 million for vaccination reporting support and incentives for workforce COVID-19 vaccination.

CHSP providers can apply for funding via GrantConnect and applications close on 30 June 2022.

CHSP providers can access emergency funds for costs associated with putting in place systems or process for reporting on workforce vaccination, and for initiatives to support and facilitate workforce vaccination.

How your workforce can get priority COVID-19 vaccination

A fact sheet to support in-home and community aged care workers is now available in 20 languages. The fact sheet provides information on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and information on how to book a vaccination appointment. Please share the relevant fact sheets with your workers.

An information kit is also available for providers to support their workers to get vaccinated.

Workers can access the vaccine of their choice (Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca)
through:

  • Primary care – including GP clinics, pharmacies, Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics (GP respiratory clinic), and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services.
    • Workers are prioritised to receive a booking within 7 days of their request for an appointment at all primary care clinics.
  • State and territory vaccination clinics - In-home and community aged care workers can make an appointment to get vaccinated at a state or territory vaccination clinic. 

Workers can also:

  • call the dedicated COVID-19 Helpline on 1800 020 080 (select option 4) for any questions about vaccination and for assistance on how to book an appointment.
  • use the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to book an appointment at a clinic nearby.

Workers can provide the following documents to confirm their eligibility for a priority vaccination: 

  • proof of identity (e.g. driver's licence, passport, birth certificate)
  • proof of employment  
    • letter from your employer confirming you have priority access
    • current work ID card or payslip showing you are currently employed as an aged care worker
  • Medicare card if you have one. You are still eligible for vaccination even if you do not have a Medicare card.

Providing evidence of vaccination

A fact sheet provides information on how workers can prove their COVID-19 vaccination status.

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

  1. 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.
  2. COVID-19 Digital Certificate – this is for individuals who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.

People can access their Immunisation History Statement:

  • online, by setting up a myGov account and then accessing a 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 AEDT) and asking them to send a copy of the statement. Please allow up to 14 days to receive the statement in the post; or
  • by asking a GP 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.

I’m protected, so you’re protected – video to share with your workforce

All providers are encouraged to share a new video with workers to encourage them to get vaccinated and explain how to make an appointment.

The video emphasises vaccination against COVID-19 as the best way for workers to protect themselves and the people they care for.

“You can get vaccinated now … with a choice of safe and effective vaccines,” read subtitles laid over images of workers, care recipients and health professionals.

“Because when you protect yourself … you also protect the people you care for.”

Please find the Supporting in home and community aged care worker COVID-19 vaccination video on YouTube to share though your communications channels.

COVID-19 vaccine booster doses now available

Booster vaccinations are now available for in-home and community aged care recipients and workers who received their second COVID-19 vaccination at least six months ago.

People who have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are fully vaccinated and very well protected against serious illness, hospitalisation or death from COVID-19.

A booster dose will boost a person’s immune response and provide an additional layer to further reduce the risk of breakthrough infection (when a fully vaccinated person gets COVID-19 and is at risk of transmitting the virus to others).

Getting a free booster dose is not mandatory but it is recommended to maintain immunity against COVID-19.

As with first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, in-home and community aged care recipients and workers can access a booster in priority appointments with primary care clinics, state and territory vaccination clinics and dedicated hubs.

Booster appointments can be booked through the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder.

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