COVID-19 vaccination – Rollout to aged care and disability care workers in Australia
The Department of Health’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor (Practice) Alison McMillan joins the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Federal Secretary Annie Butler to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to residential aged care and disability care workers.
Hello, I’m Alison McMillan the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and I’m a registered nurse.
And I’m Annie Butler, the Federal Secretary for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, and I’m also a registered nurse.
And we’d just like to start by thanking all aged care and disability workers for the amazing work you do, especially the work that you’ve done over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting your residents and the community.
Thanks Annie. So, we are here to talk about how aged care workers and disability workers can access the COVID-19 vaccination.
So first Annie can you give us some thoughts about the importance of aged care and disability workers getting vaccinated?
Well yes Alison as we know residential aged care and disability workers perform a vital role in our community.
They provide crucial services and support to older Australians living in nursing homes and to people with disabilities living in residential facilities who are the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
We know from COVID-19 outbreaks both here in Australia and overseas that aged care residents in particular are most at risk from severe illness or sadly even death from COVID-19 disease.
That’s why it’s really important aged care and disability workers get vaccinated so they can protect the residents in their care, their families and the wider community.
That’s so important Annie and yes, we know that aged care and disability care workers do really care about the people they work and care for.
They have done, as you said, an incredible job during this pandemic and during the outbreak.
So along with all of those really safe COVID safe measures that they’ve taken in the last 12 months, we now know that vaccination is the most effective protection against the COVID virus.
That’s right. And we’d say it is normal to have questions about the new COVID-19 vaccines and even to feel a little bit hesitant of course.
The vaccine is not currently mandatory but it is strongly recommended. And we have in Australia two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines at the moment – the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer vaccines.
And we know they are very effective at preventing death and severe illness among people who contract COVID-19.
That’s right, so when making a decision about whether to get vaccinated or not, the aged care and disability workers need to understand both the risks and benefits.
So I think it’s very important first to say that safety is our priority. In Australia we’ve been able to prevent sustained community transmission although we have seen some outbreaks of course in the last 18 months. But we continue to be at risk of community transmission in Australia.
That’s right. It’s also really important to know there’s now a number of options for workers to get vaccinated, so it’s really choosing the option that works best for them.
So, your age determines which vaccine you receive and that’s based on recent advice from Australia’s expert group on immunisation.
If you are aged 50 or over, you will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine.
If you are aged under 50, you will be offered the Pfizer vaccine.
That’s right, so your age to some extent therefore determines where you go to get vaccinated. Some clinics that are doing vaccinations will have both vaccines and some will only have one.
So let’s run through those options.
Workers aged 50 and over can access an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at a GP clinic, GP respiratory clinic or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.
Alternatively, aged care workers 50 years and over can access an AstraZeneca vaccine at a state and territory vaccination clinics.
Arrangements in different states and territories are happening progressively.
Participating clinics can be found through the eligibility checker on the Department of Health website.
If you can’t find details of nearby clinics please check regularly as listings will continue to be updated as clinics become available.
In addition, some employers who wish to vaccinate their staff have the option of having AstraZeneca vaccination clinics for workers aged 50 and over on-site. So you should check with your employer to see if they have this option available to you.
And, if you’re aged under 50, you can go to a Pfizer vaccination clinic in your state and territory.
To find out where the nearest clinic is, you can go to the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker which is on the health.gov.au website.
In addition, dedicated pop-up Pfizer vaccination clinics will become available in some locations.
Now, these are dedicated clinics for residential aged care and disability workers aged under 50.
The first clinics have opened in Sydney and more are coming soon.
So you can check with your employer for the details of these clinics as they become available in your area.
Some employers are also running on-site Pfizer vaccination clinics for workers aged under 50, so you can check with your employer to see if this is an option for you.
Thanks Annie. There’s just a couple of other things that are important when preparing to get vaccinated.
So, when you’ve got your appointment, staff need to take proof of age and also proof of their employment.
And it is recommended anyone waits 14 days between a flu vaccination and a COVID-19 vaccination, so they really need to talk to their employer about this as well.
Alison, we discussed earlier we’ve got two, currently we’ve got two vaccines available in Australia, the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
We know they’re both effective and safe and they’re highly effective against death and severe illness among people who contract COVID-19.
But a question that often comes up is why can’t people choose which vaccine they get?
Thanks Annie and I know this is a very important question. So, when making decisions about prioritisation of vaccines, it’s based both on the availability and the clinical guidance you already spoke about, this expert group that provides that advice.
So that advice has made a very clear recommendation that those under 50 get access to the Pfizer vaccine and those over 50 get access to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
We know both these vaccines are highly effective against severe disease and death and so that’s how those decisions have been made.
Thanks Alison, there’s also just been a few reports in the media lately about the AstraZeneca vaccine. So there’s still some people have questions about the safety of the vaccine for people aged 50 and over.
That’s right Annie, so we have seen some reports and we are seeing it around the world, some association with the AstraZeneca.
Firstly these side effects are very rare and it’s really also important to understand that the risk of severe disease or death for anyone over 50 from COVID is much greater than the risk associated with severe disease or death from the vaccine. So that’s why we continue to recommend this vaccine for the over 50s.
Great, thanks AIison. Look we really hope this chat has helped our aged care and disability workers to understand more about how you can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
We are very lucky in Australia that we’re rolling out our vaccine program while we don’t have high community transmission.
But the risk remains ever present, and we have an opportunity to get protected against COVID-19.
So what we’d like to reiterate now is that our aged care and disability care workers have an increased range of options where you can get your vaccine, and we encourage you to make your booking.