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The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has now advised that three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are required to be up to date in order to provide protection against both infection and severe disease. It is important that our most vulnerable people in residential aged care, are protected from the devastating effects of COVID-19.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has previously advised that an important part of that protection is a requirement for residential aged care staff to be fully and recently vaccinated. In view of the changed ATAGI advice, this should now include three rather than two vaccine doses.
Residents of aged care facilities are among the most vulnerable to severe outcomes of COVID-19. In addition, residential aged care settings are a very high-risk transmission setting for COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to take reasonable and proportionate steps to mitigate the likelihood of COVID-19 being introduced into a residential aged care facility. AHPPC notes current high rates of community transmission of the Omicron variant in Australia, increases the risk of exposure to care recipients in these settings.
Booster doses have a moderate impact on reducing risk of developing infection from COVID-19. Ensuring workers have received three doses of vaccine has a direct impact on reducing transmission to residents of aged care facility by preventing infection in workers. There is a potential effect of vaccination in reducing onward transmission from infected individuals who are vaccinated, although data on this are not yet available for Omicron. Booster vaccines for workers in high-risk settings also help to protect workers themselves from both infection and severe disease, in the event of a workplace or other exposure.
AHPPC notes the success of original mandates in achieving high levels of residential aged care worker vaccination rates. AHPPC recommends to National Cabinet that the residential aged care workforce receive a third (booster) dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of working in a residential aged care facility.