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.