What you need to know before deadline for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination

September 17 is the date for the commencement of the mandatory vaccination requirement for residential aged care workers.

Date published:
Health sector

It is critical to ensure any workers not yet vaccinated receive their first dose, that providers update data quickly and accurately via My Aged Care, and that any authorised exemptions to vaccination, temporary or otherwise, are properly recorded.

For action – check your My Aged Care data is correct

All providers are required to ensure their workforce COVID-19 vaccination and exemption data is up to date via My Aged Care, particularly prior to 17 September.

From tomorrow onwards, the data you report will be used to assess your compliance with mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements as outlined in the relevant public health orders in your state or territory.

Thank you to all providers who have ensured their COVID-19 vaccination data for workers and residents is up to date.

Current workforce vaccination rate

To date, providers have reported 95.8 per cent of residential aged care workers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 76.9 per cent are fully vaccinated. This is higher than the vaccination rates across the community and reflects the leadership shown across the sector.

This is a very positive result and assures residents and their families that those who care for them are protecting themselves and those around them from the risk of serious disease, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.

However, it is critical the Department has clear oversight of the status of the remaining 4.2 per cent of workers not yet reported as being vaccinated.

Weekly reporting each Tuesday via the My Aged Care provider portal on workforce and resident COVID-19 vaccination is a mandatory requirement. The only exception to not reporting weekly is if there is no change since the previous week’s data.

In the lead up to 17 September, providers have been consistently encouraged to update their data within 24 hours of changes to the vaccination status of their workforce, such as following on an on-site clinic.

The Department is actively engaging with providers with lower vaccination rates. In many cases, this engagement has led to providers promptly taking action to update their data via My Aged Care. In some cases, the Department is providing additional assistance to ensure all workers have access to a vaccine before Friday and this includes additional on-site clinics.

What happens from 17 September

tomorrow, the Department will undertake monitoring and compliance work with providers and individual facilities, in line with the state and territory public health orders.

What to expect

The Department will engage directly with providers and individual facilities to discuss the vaccination and exemption data as reported on My Aged Care, to clarify if there are any unvaccinated workers and where there may be exemptions that may apply.

The Department will take a proactive and constructive approach in contacting facilities directly to:

  • Ensure continuity of resident care standards as a priority
  • understand the reasons for non-medical exemptions or unvaccinated workers
  • provide advice on the availability and access to a vaccine for unvaccinated workers
  • provide advice on exemption requirements for the relevant state or territory public health order, and
  • how to report exemptions correctly in the My Aged Care provider portal

Providers have clear obligations under the public health orders and are required to have the necessary processes in place with respect to accurate reporting, and record keeping as required under the public health orders, on workforce vaccination.

What you need to do

When contacted, facilities will be required to advise the Department of their strategy for addressing non-medical exemptions and increasing vaccination rates, including a plan to ensure all current workers not yet vaccinated receive a minimum first dose COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

Your strategy should consider overall vaccination rates at your facility, roles undertaken by unvaccinated workers, the transmission risk in your local area and other measures in place to prepare and manage the risk of COVID-19.

What happens next

The Department will share information with the state or territory and, where relevant, make a recommendation on whether formal exemptions should apply (this is not an option in all jurisdictions).

The Department will also share information with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission for further action, including immediate referral where no appropriate strategy is identified by the facility and/or provider.

If strategies are not implemented to adequately minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection, including through workforce vaccination, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission may take action, including issuing sanctions.

The relevant state or territory may then take compliance action or impose penalties where compliance with the relevant public health order is not achieved. These penalties are detailed in the state and territory public health orders.

What you need to do now

  1. All providers and workers are encouraged to review their state or territory public health order to understand the scope of mandatory vaccination and limited exemptions that may apply. Contact your state or territory health department if you have questions regarding any aspects of the public health order.
  2. Read the Frequently Asked Questions on exemptions to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
  3. All providers should now be confirming with their workforce whether they have received their minimum first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and providing support and information to workers who are unsure or concerned about vaccination.
  4. All providers should be immediately contacting their local Primary Health Network or Commonwealth State Office if they have any workers who have issues accessing a COVID-19 vaccine prior to 17 September.
  5. All workers should now be providing evidence to their employer of their vaccination status.
  6. Providers should be supporting workers whose vaccination is not appearing on their Immunisation History Statement by contacting the vaccine provider to ensure their record is updated. The Department has provided information and advice on how to support workers on this matter several times over the past week, including How to provide your COVID-19 vaccination status to your employer.
  7. Providers should be respectfully engaging with workers who have made the decision to not be vaccinated with respect to their future, understanding that COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for all workers in residential aged care, excluding those who have authorised exemptions.

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