Aged care workers put on notice: Get the jab or potentially lose your job,
Following a devastating 2017 influenza (flu) season across the nation, the Australian Government has introduced compulsory flu vaccination availability for workers in the aged care sector. Aged care staff who refuse to get a flu vaccination will be transferred or even banned from shift in a radical new plan.
“It will now be mandatory for every aged care provider to offer the flu vaccine to every single worker”, Minister Hunt says.
The introduction of flu vaccines to be made available for aged care workers comes following what the Government called a “horrific” flu season in 2017, which saw 90 percent of the 1,100 flu related deaths in people aged over 65, and the release of two new “ground-breaking” vaccines.
The latest data showed infection control was further compromised last year when dozens of staff were struck down with the flu, compounding an already deadly situation. “Vaccination is imperative for staff and residents in aged care, where the flu can have devastating consequences,” Mr Wyatt said.
A national review of 2609 aged care homes found that only 3.5 per cent of them had the recommended staff coverage of 95 per cent or higher. The addition of dozens being struck down with flu symptoms last year, along with already minimised staff numbers, would have devastating effects on Australia’s elderly.
While the government cannot force healthcare workers to receive an injection against their will, The Sunday Telegraph reports that those who refuse will be transferred to different wards or be rostered on less, depending on the employment agreement they work under, to ensure the safety of elderly residents.
This year more than 4.5 million doses of the influenza vaccine were provided at no cost to Australians who were most at risk from the flu. Encouragingly, a review found that aged care homes that ran free vaccination programs for staff had higher coverage than those that only encouraged staff to be vaccinated elsewhere.
Under the National Immunisation Program, those eligible for a free flu shot include people aged 65 years and over, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those who suffer from chronic conditions.
Over 90,000 cases of influenza have been reported this year, which is two and a half times the amount recorded in the same period last year.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said vulnerable people living in aged-care facilities were much more likely to be affected by the virus.
How does the flu shot work?
There are different types of influenza vaccine, but they all work in a similar way. There are also many strains of influenza itself. Three or four strains are included in the vaccines every year.
Each vaccine is a weakened form of these three or four influenza viruses. The vaccine causes the body’s immune system to make antibodies and to activate other immune cells to fight off and neutralize or kill the virus.
This means that if someone who has been vaccinated is then exposed to influenza virus, their immune system is able to react quickly. They are less likely to get influenza infection.
What are the side effects?
The common side effects of flu vaccine are pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, and nasal congestion and runny nose.
There are some more serious potential side effects, but these are extremely rare. A condition called Guillan-Barre syndrome (weakness caused by nerve damage) is thought to be associated with about one in a million doses. However, influenza infection is much more likely to cause Guillan-Barre syndrome than the influenza vaccine.
Where you can have a flu shot
You can get your vaccine from a range of vaccination providers. In Australia, general practices (your local doctor) generally give vaccines. In addition, you can get vaccines through:
- local council or community health clinics
- Aboriginal Medical Services
- school based immunisation programs
In some situations, vaccinations may also be given at:
- travel medicine clinics
- public hospitals
- staff occupational health clinics
- aged care facilities
Finding a provider near you
To find an immunisation provider near you:
- contact your state or territory health department
- use HealthDirect's free service finder
- call the National Immunisation Hotline on 1800 671 811.
How often do you need to have a flu shot
You need to have the flu shot at least once a year. This is because a flu vaccine you had last year may not protect you this year as flu viruses usually differ from one season to the other. Therefore the formulation of the vaccine is changed every year in-line with the changing nature of this virus.
For more information
For further information about immunisation programs, contact your doctor or, immunisation provider. Or see the immunisation services website for more: