LASA says that the decision to make vaccination of aged care workers mandatory reinforces the need to ensure doses are readily available and staff are supported to be vaccinated.
“We must do all we can to keep older Australians in care safe,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.
“Like all things regarding the pandemic, the protections we put in place must be informed by the medical experts.
“Mandatory vaccination of aged care staff will enhance protections for them and the people they care for.
“Compulsory jabs are not new to aged care. With mandatory flu vaccination in aged care introduced previously in the wake of the first wave of COVID-19, there were hundreds of flu deaths in preceding years.
“The implementation of this vaccination program for aged care workers will see reporting by early August about any of the consequences of this mandatory immunisation decision.
“The mandatory vaccination announcement does raise a number of questions that need to be addressed. Notably, what exceptions will be in place for staff unable to be vaccinated?
“Will GPs, allied health professionals, volunteers and family members who regularly visit aged care homes and spend long periods of time with residents and staff be required to be vaccinated? What supports will be in place to prioritise staff vaccinations?”
LASA notes the $11 million payment for aged care workers, to take time off for receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.
“It is essential that residential aged care facilities are enabled and resourced to support staff so the immunisation is done,” Mr Rooney said.
“Staff also need to feel supported rather than forced to be vaccinated – priority vaccination should be considered a privilege and we need to be careful that this mandate does not turn it into a burden.
“Aged care providers and staff require more details for the $11 million funding announcement to support the increasing uptake of the vaccinations.
“We also need to know what supports will be in place in the event that aged care homes are left short staffed in the event that some staff are unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. We must ensure that staff numbers and care standards are not compromised.
“With only 33 per cent of residential aged care staff having the vaccine so far, we need much more information on the rollout of the current vaccination program and state-based directions.”
Mr Rooney is also asking whether there will be exemptions for staff who have rare conditions – as there are for the influenza vaccination – including anaphylaxis and the Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
“We also want to know whether there will be mandatory vaccinations for home care and community staff who care for older people,” he said.
“It is a national priority to do all we can to protect older Australians in care and the people that care for them.”