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Mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for in home and community aged care workers

On Wednesday, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) announced that it recommends the COVID-19 vaccine to be mandated for in home and community aged care workers, with the deadline for the first jab in two weeks.

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The AHPPC has recommended that it should be mandatory for in home and community aged care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. [Source: Shutterstock]

The suggested national framework of this new vaccination requirement would include people - whether they are full time, part time, casual, a subcontractor, or volunteer - who work in all Commonwealth funded aged care services, such as:  

  • Home Care Packages

  • Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)

  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program home care services

  • Short Term Restorative Care

  • Transition Care Program

  • Multi-Purposes Services

It will be up to States and Territories to include this mandate in their public health legislation, however, the AHPCC recommends in home care and community aged care workers should have their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by 30 November 2021 and a second dose by 31 December 2021.

The AHPPC provides key decision making during health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and works with States and Territories to develop protection policies.

In a press conference this morning, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, says that the recommendations on home care were taken to the National Cabinet on Friday and have since been released with the endorsement of Cabinet.

"...Our position has been very clear that we have seen that there were limited circumstances - aged care and disability - where we had workers with vulnerable personnel, the Commonwealth would be supporting a mandatory vaccination program. Beyond that, it's a  matter for the States and others," says Minister Hunt.

"...I would note that all three of those sectors, the home care, the Commonwealth Home Support and disability, are now well over 80 percent first dose. They're in the middle 80 percent range.

"And so it's not a significant distance to travel, but it is a recommendation that the health  professionals had, and which the Commonwealth has recognised that in order to protect vulnerable Australians with disability and vulnerable Australians who are elderly and infirm, that we would have that additional support."

Seven States and Territories have already mandated COVID-19 vaccination for the in home and community care workforce, with only Tasmania to follow shortly. 

The AHPPC recognises that some States or Territories may introduce their own requirements that come into effect earlier or beyond the AHPPC suggestion. For the full statement of the AHPPC, visit the Health Department website.

Chief Executive Officer of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Sean Rooney, says that LASA's position has always been to take on the advice of the experts in how Australia should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We note that AHPPC has now recommended that the in home and community care workforce be vaccinated and we now encourage all those in our workforce to protect themselves and those for whom they provide care through vaccination," says Mr Rooney.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Paul Sadler, says the organisation has been calling for this vaccination mandate on home care workers for some time and has welcomed the AHPPC guidelines.

"We now need all jurisdictions to implement it. The Government must make clear arrangements for getting the COVID vaccine out to all home and community aged care workers who require them," says Mr Sadler.

"ACSA will continue to work with the Government and others in the sector to achieve full vaccination of residential aged care staff and home and community aged care workers.

"As Australia’s COVID booster shot program progresses, ACSA believes there should also be a focus on on-site vaccination teams as the best way to assist with additional staff and resident vaccination access."

Government opens up grant to encourage home care worker vaccinations

Last week, the Federal Government launched a $20 million grant to encourage home care providers to increase and report on vaccination rates of their workforce.

With more than 175,000 older Australians receiving assistance through a Home Care Package delivered by around 116,000 home care workers, Minister Hunt says the grant will bolster home care providers’ efforts to keep their clients safe against COVID-19.

The program was approved on Friday by National Cabinet, acting on advice from the AHPPC.

"Although we are seeing a great take up of the vaccination in older Australians, with almost 92 percent of people over 70 having received two doses, it is imperative this workforce is vaccinated to minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering the homes of vulnerable seniors," says Minister Hunt.

"Irrespective of the advice from the AHPPC, I urge workers to take up vaccination now to protect themselves, their families and the people in their care." 

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, says the vaccination numbers of in home and community aged care workers are still growing.

As of 11 November, 87 percent of home care workers and 84 percent of CHSP workers have received at least one dose, and 72 percent of home care workers and 73 percent of CHSP workers have reported receiving two doses.

"These grants – up to $48,000 – will help approved providers support their workforce to get vaccinated. It will also assist with mandatory reporting of the vaccination status of their workforce on the My Aged Care Portal, which came into effect in July," says Minister Colbeck.

The Department of Health is working with all aged care providers to get accurate information on the COVID-19 vaccination rates of the workforce.

Minister Hunt says good data will support public health measures and inform any adjustments that the Government needs to make to support further vaccinations of workers.

All in home and community aged care workers have had priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine since the initial vaccine rollout in March this year.

In home and community aged care workers can now go to vaccination hubs that were initially dedicated to residential aged care workers and disability support workers.

However, these workers can also go to GPs, pharmacies, and Government vaccination clinics to get vaccinated.

This $20 million funding follows the $13.8 million recently released to support CHSP providers to increase and report on the vaccination status of their workforce.

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