Aged care facilities with at least three-quarters of staff vaccinated against the flu have fewer influenza outbreaks, however only 15 per cent of facilities have achieved this, according to a national review.

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency-led review into the infectious disease management practices and vaccination rates in aged care facilities was called for by Minister of Aged Care Ken Wyatt in September (read our background story here).

The release of the review, which aimed to identify better methods to prevent and manage disease outbreaks in facilities, coincides with the Government’s announcement this week that residential providers must now offer staff a flu vaccination (read more here).

The review, which surveyed 2,609 residential aged care facilities between October 2017 and January 2018, found there were 302 resident deaths associated with influenza and gastroenteritis in the previous 12 months.

Aged care facilities with influenza vaccination rates of over 75 per cent were less likely to report at least one influenza outbreak (39 per cent) than those with staff vaccination rates under 25 per cent (49 per cent).

In the previous 12 months almost a third of facilities (31 per cent) had a gastroenteritis outbreak that affected both aged care residents and staff.

The survey found that 2,521 residential homes (97 per cent) reported having an annual influenza vaccination program in place for their workforce, however 90 per cent stated that vaccination was not mandatory.

Most aged care facilities provided staff with access to a flu vaccine (86 per cent) but 10 per cent reported their program only encouraged staff to receive the flu vaccine from external providers.

While 15 per cent of facilities reported more than 75 per cent of workers were vaccinated, 20 per cent of facilities did not know how many if its staff were covered.

Less than half of staff were vaccinated at 44 per cent of homes while 78 per cent of providers were not aware if their agency staff were vaccinated or not in the previous 12 months.

More than a third of aged care facilities achieved a vaccination rate over 95 per cent for residents (36 per cent) while one in five facilities reached this target for volunteers (19 percent).

Far fewer facilities reached a vaccination rate over 95 per cent for agency workers (9 per cent) and staff (4 per cent).

Facilities with both documented infection control plans and staff vaccine receipts were associated with improved vaccination rates among care residents, agency staff, staff and volunteers, the review found.

Fast facts

  • 98 per cent of aged care facilities have an infection control plan for influenza
  • Over 95 per cent stated they had various infection control/outbreak response processes in place
  • staff that were trained on using the influenza outbreak kit were more likely to report outbreaks to health departments (64 per cent), compared to untrained staff (48 per cent)

Access the full report here.

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