Government mandates aged care worker flu vaccination offers

The offer and provision of influenza vaccinations to all staff in residential aged care homes will be compulsory. Workers may choose to take up the vaccination offer.

 

The mandate emphasises Australian Government moves to maximise protection for senior Australians ahead of 2018 this flu season and is based on results of a survey showing a significant link between increased staff immunisation and lower aged care influenza outbreaks.

 

“It will now be mandatory for every aged care provider to offer the flu vaccine to every single worker”, Minister for health Mr Greg Hunt said.

“Already we have made two new ground-breaking flu vaccines available to over three million Australians aged 65 years and over - free of charge.

 

Today we are taking further steps to ensure those seniors are protected even more, ahead of this year’s flu season.”

 

Minister Wyatt said: “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.

 

“This is why we are taking strong action to ensure the safety of senior Australians in aged care.”

 

In 2017, just over 1,100 influenza-associated deaths were reported in Australia, with people aged 65 years and older accounting for more than 90 per cent of these.

Minister Wyatt ordered the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to review two aged care homes in Victoria and Tasmania, where 18 people died.

 

“Alarmingly, in these two locations, well under half of the staff had been vaccinated,” Minister Wyatt said. “Infection control was further compromised as dozens of staff were struck down with the flu, compounding a deadly situation.

 

“What this policy will do is offer every person a flu vaccination.”

 

The subsequent national survey of the 2,609 homes revealed:

  • Only 3.5 per cent had the recommended staff coverage of 95 per cent or higher to gain herd immunity
  • 35.9 per cent had the recommended resident coverage of 95 per cent or higher
  • 43 per cent reported at least one influenza outbreak in the previous year
  • Those providing in-house staff vaccination programs had higher coverage than those who only encouraged staff to go to an external immunisation provider.

 

In the lead up to the 2018 influenza season, the Quality Agency undertook an extensive awareness campaign within the aged care industry, targeted vaccination records of residents and staff and implemented practices that have been shown to increase vaccination uptake.

 

Minister for Aged Care Mr Ken Wyatt said, “Vaccination is imperative for staff and residents in aged care, where the flu can spread quickly and have devastating consequences.

 

“I urge all Australians to have their flu shot, especially those who regularly visit loved ones living in aged care homes.”

 

See the Government's free flu vaccination program details for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 15 years and over and all others 65 years and over at https://beta.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule

 

22 April 2018.