COVID-19 vaccinations will become mandatory for all residential aged care workers, following a decision made at an emergency national cabinet meeting this week.
As a condition of working in the sector, aged care workers will be required to get at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September, as the country deals with multiple outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta strain.
Aged care workers will be supported to be vaccinated through an $11 million program to enable them to attend off-site vaccination centres and GPs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision had not been taken lightly, and that the situation would be monitored to ensure there were “no unintended consequences.”
“We want to make sure that this won’t have a negative impact on the available workforce.”
However, the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said there was still “ongoing confusion and very little detail” on how exactly the mandatory vaccinations would roll out.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said there were still more questions than answers.
“We still don’t know how vaccinations will be mandated; how staff will access the vaccines. Will they access on-site where they work, or will they be forced to source their own?”
“Aged care workers are confused, and many aged care providers are confused. Workers need clarity and security and action by the Government which is based on clear health advice.”
Echoing the ANMF’s concerns, the ACTU said it was “deeply frustrated” by the situation and said the federal government’s announcement fell short of what was needed.
“The mandating of vaccines shifts the blame onto hard working aged care workers who were told they would be vaccinated at work, yet when residents were being vaccinated they were left out or offered leftovers. It has now become very hard for many workers to get a vaccine at all,” it said in a statement.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said there was too many emergency meeting and brigadiers, when all that was really needed was “nurses with vaccines.”
“Mandating the vaccine for aged care workers will not fix the fact that at the moment they cannot access them, with no at work vaccination program and limited supplies. The thing that really needs to be mandated is a vaccine team visiting every aged care home.”
The National Cabinet also agreed to mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for all quarantine workers, but did not set a timeline for the rollout. It also agreed to seek advice from AHPPC on vaccinations for aviation, interstate freight transport, and mining (FIFO) workers.
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