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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Not mandatory for aged care workers to disclose COVID jab status

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Aged care workers do not need to disclose if they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccination despite a new requirement for mandatory reporting of jab numbers by providers.

Under current Health Department guidelines “it is voluntary for workers to be vaccinated and to disclose if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination”.

“For all aged care workers in in-home and community aged care, and in residential aged care, it remains voluntary for workers to be vaccinated and to disclose if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination,” the guidance states.

From June 15, it will be mandatory for aged care providers to report vaccination numbers to the Federal Government on a weekly basis.

“Whilst facilities are required to report, it remains voluntary for workers to be vaccinated and to disclose if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Friday.

Employee vaccination information is subject to provisions under the Privacy Act, Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said.

“This means that this information can currently only be collected by aged care providers where a staff member agrees to disclose it,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are confident providers will work collaboratively and sensitively with their workforce to both support workers to understand the importance of getting vaccinated and to understand why it is important to know the level of vaccination coverage across the workforce.”

A total of 42,978 workers have been vaccinated through the Commonwealth’s in-reach clinics in residential aged care, of which 36,651 are fully vaccinated.

Workers are also free to get vaccinated through state and Commonwealth clinics, or by their GP.

“The Government does not currently have full visibility of how many workers are being vaccinated through these channels as the Australian Immunisation Register does not capture an individual’s occupation or place of employment,” Colbeck said.

“We are confident that the new reporting process will provide good data on the level of workforce vaccination.”

National Cabinet on Friday asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to provide advice on the mandating of aged care and disability workforce COVID vaccinations as soon as possible.

Weekly data will be recorded through an online reporting tool that records de-identified data on the total number of aged care workers who have received their first or second dose.

A number of states scrambled to prioritise aged care vaccinations after the Victorian outbreak raised concern about the rollout speed.

“Not all of our workers who were supposed to be vaccinated already by the Commonwealth in the 1A group have been done. We’re not going to wait any longer,” Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Wednesday.

The Victorian Government announced on Tuesday it would prioritise COVID vaccinations for workers in private facilities.

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