Get flu jab or don’t work


NURSES and aged care work­ers who refuse to get a flu vac­ci­na­tion will be moved to dif­fer­ent wards or even banned from shifts un­der a rad­i­cal plan by the fed­eral govern­ment to pro­tect the el­derly.

From early May it will be manda­tory for ev­ery aged care fa­cil­ity to of­fer a free flu vac­cine to all staff.

The move comes after last year’s killer flu sea­son saw 1100 in­fluenza-re­lated deaths in Aus­tralia, with peo­ple aged 65 years and older ac­count­ing for more than 90 per cent of cases.

The fed­eral govern­ment can­not force health­care work­ers to re­ceive an in­jec­tion against their will but The Sun­day Tele­graph un­der­stands those who refuse the vacci- na­tion will face bar­ri­ers by their em­ploy­ers. The govern­ment is also pre­pared to look at stronger ac­tion if this fails to boost im­mu­ni­sa­tion rates.

To­day’s an­nounce­ment co­in­cides with the re­lease of ex­clu­sive new data from a gov- ern­ment re­view that re­veals aged care homes where only a quar­ter of staff were vac­ci­nated had a 25 per cent higher rate of flu out­breaks than those with three-quar­ters or more of their staff vac­ci­nated.

Aged Care Min­is­ter Ken Wy­att said the lat­est data showed in­fec­tion con­trol was fur­ther com­pro­mised last year as dozens of staff were struck down with the flu, com­pound­ing a deadly sit­u­a­tion.

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

“Vac­ci­na­tion is im­per­a­tive for staff and res­i­dents in aged care, where the flu can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.”

The na­tional re­view of 2609 aged care homes also found that only 3.5 per cent had the rec­om­mended staff cov­er­age of 95 per cent or higher.

More than 40 per cent of homes re­ported at least one flu out­break but only one third of homes had the rec­om­mended im­mu­ni­sa­tion rates of 95 per cent or higher for pa­tients.

En­cour­ag­ingly the re­view found that aged care homes that ran vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams for staff had higher cov­er­age than those who only en­cour­aged staff to be vac­ci­nated else­where.

Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said the pol­icy would en­sure se­niors are pro­tected.

AMA vice-pres­i­dent Tony Bar­tone wel­comed the govern­ment’s plan and said he was con­fi­dent it would boost im­mu­ni­sa­tion rates.

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