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Providers back compulsory flu vaccination program


The Federal Government is ordering all residential care providers to supply their staff with a flu vaccine to curb aged care influenza.

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minster of Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced a compulsory immunisation program for aged care staff on Sunday, when it also released the results of a national survey on infection control practices in residential aged that showed links between lower influenza outbreaks and increased staff immunisation.

The survey, which was conducted by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, found that 97 per cent of residential aged care providers already had an annual influenza vaccination program in place, however 90 per cent of services reported that participation was not mandatory (read more on the review’s findings here).

The quality agency’s national review of infection control practices was prompted by the flu-related deaths of several residents at two aged care facilities in Victoria and Tasmania during last year’s flu season (read more about this here).

Nationally, just over 1,100 deaths were associated with complications due to influenza last year, 90 per cent of which involved people over the age of 65.

The mandatory staff vaccination program will come into effect on 1 May under an amendment to the Aged Care Act.

Aged care peaks Leading Age Services Australia and Aged & Community Services Australia said they would work with government to administer the new program and help prevent influenza outbreaks from occurring in aged care.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said mandating aged care operators to make influenza vaccinations available to their staff would be an important tool in a mix of measures to control an influenza outbreak and lower the risk of infection.

ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow urged the government to also consider the additional regulatory and cost burden it places on many providers at a time when many are struggling financially.

Vaccination programs underway

Several providers including Braemar Presbyterian Care, Goodwin Aged Care and Uniting AgeWell announced this week plans were already in place for their immunisation programs ahead of this year’s flu season.

Western Australian based aged care provider Braemar is hosting a flu vaccine event next week at each of its facilities to encourage staff to receive the vaccine.

Renee Reid

Braemar Presbyterian Care general manager workforce Renee Reid, who administers the flu vaccine program at Braemar, said the benefits outweighed the costs of offering free vaccines to staff.

“The benefit for us is the ability to help ensure a healthy workforce at Braemar, and as a result help keep our residents protected throughout the flu season,” Ms Reid told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Braemar is hoping to build on “reasonable turnouts” achieved during its free vaccine clinics for staff in previous years.

“This year we really wanted to increase vaccination rates through a broader scope by offering a free vaccine to staff, volunteers and residents’ family members,” Ms Reid said.

“We have maintained after hours clinics for those who can’t attend the daytime event, so we are looking at the broadest range of coverage.”

Minister Wyatt said the quality agency would closely monitor the vaccine status of residents and staff.

“Last winter, aged care homes with only a quarter of their staff vaccinated had a 25 per cent higher rate of flu outbreaks than those with three quarters or more of their staff vaccinated,” Mr Wyatt said.

The government said having 95 per cent of staff vaccinated would create a “herd immunity.”

LASA and ACSA also reiterated previous calls for the community to also ensure best practice was followed.

A spokesperson for Minister Wyatt said the new requirement would only apply to residential aged care services, however the government was considering exploring ways to boost vaccination rates in community-based aged care.

Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au 

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5 Responses to Providers back compulsory flu vaccination program

  1. Jay April 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm #

    The evidence does not support this. Studies have shown there is no reduced incidence of flu in elderly residents with higher staff vaccination and that vaccination of elderly residents has poor outcomes. A survey is hardly evidence and this requires more robust debate

  2. Vanessa May 4, 2018 at 9:24 am #

    It is all well and good for a Federal Minster to mandate aged care staff have an annual flu vaccination, however not all care staff want to be vaccinated for various reasons. Therefore achieving 95% vaccination rate for staff & volunteers whilst ideal is unfortunately unrealistic. As for who is going to pay for the vaccination, well that is sitting with the provider at this stage and with many providers currently making a loss, this is an unbudgeted burden for this financial year. What might be worth considering is having aged care staff taking a letter to their GP from their employer confirming they are an aged care worker and being bulk billed for their consult and the GP clinic receiving financial reimbursement from the Government for the vaccination.

  3. Naomi Hughes June 25, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

    Staff are losing JOBS … … NO jab no JOB ….. how un Australian….. what about choices … I agree with both comments more robust discussions thanks and worker protection.. .and if NOT , compensation for loss of jobs due to unrealistic expectations on STAFF……. ive been in age for for 20 yrs and never have a seen such a knee jerk reaction about death from our leaders.. …never has the elderly been more vunerable and exploited but NOW in our community………that is a FACT. ……… ive lossed my Job after 20 yrs in industry ….. says a lot for nursing and the care…. it appears no one cares at all…. thanks Australia for nothing.!

  4. Chriss June 28, 2018 at 12:41 am #

    I will lose my job because I won’t have the vaccine . I love my special elderly friends I care for and now will have to leave. Why don’t work places stop making their workers feel guilty when they are sick and encourage workers to not come to work sick. I sat near a worker on a mandatory meeting and she said she had been so sick and wasn’t able to go home had to stay for the meeting with runny nose and headache. I moved away from her because o didn’t want to be sick. The manager looked at me and frowned and moved to sit next to her. People in age care would not get sick any where near as much if work managers cared a little more. No jab will fix this.

  5. Anonymous June 28, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

    My impression was that it was mandatory for providers to have a vaccination PROGRAM not that it was mandatory for staff to have the injection.

    The intention of a mandatory program was to boost vaccination levels (ie increase herd immunity). I’d be VERY surprised if care homes were sacking staff for not being vaccinated.

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