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WA aged care workers say they’ll quit rather than have compulsory COVID jab

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Around a third of Western Australia’s aged care work force have said they would resign if they were forced to have a COVID-19 vaccination.

Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) state secretary Mark Olson said on Friday that he had contacted Prime Minister Scott Morrison and WA premier Mark McGowan and urged them to keep vaccinations for aged care workers voluntary.

Olson’s comments come after the Australian Financial Review reported last week that McGowan will make it compulsory for aged care workers in his state to be vaccinated.

McGowan told the AFR’s Phil Coorey that the mandatory vaccinations will occur in August and that workers would be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

The ANF said it also wants its workers to be given a choice of vaccines.

A new survey of 4000 ANF members working in aged care has found that 31 per cent would quit if they were forced to have the COVID jab.

“We are desperately short of aged care nurses and carers and cannot afford to adopt policies that would worsen well-documented difficulties facing the sector and create an even bigger shortage of staff,” Olson said.

“Our members’ response reflects the same concerns expressed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that COVID-19 vaccinations should remain voluntary for aged care staff.”

Concerning community reluctance to avoid vaccination has not been helped by medical experts yesterday recommending raising the AstraZeneca age limit to 60.

The expert immunisation panel ATAGI recommended the change because of extremely rare but serious blood clots that have claimed two lives of people in their 50s.

Health authorities have encouraged the 815,000 Australians who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca to receive a second jab because of dramatically lower risk than the initial shot.

Olsen acknowledged that choice is an important factor in aged care workers’ vaccine uptake.

“Both state and federal governments must adopt strategies that encourage vaccination and it is clear from the survey that if all staff were given a choice of vaccines, this would increase the uptake,” Olson said.

The ANF survey also found that 85 per cent of respondents said that vaccines should be mandatory for visitors, relatives and others who enters an aged care facility if vaccines were made mandatory for staff.

More than 75 per cent of Australians who were polled in another recent survey said they supported mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for aged care workers.

The survey of 1001 participants was conducted between June 2 and 4, and coincided with a decision by National Cabinet to indicate an “in-principle disposition” towards compulsory vaccinations for aged care staff.

More than 50 per cent of those surveyed strongly agreed with policy of mandatory vaccinations for workers coming into contact with vulnerable Australians, with a further 27 per cent agreeing with the idea.

As of June 15, the aged care sector is now required to report the level of vaccinations completed in the workforce.

It comes after Federal Government officials told Senate estimates two weeks ago that they did not know the precise number of fully vaccinated aged care workers, but believed the figure was at least 31,000 – or about nine per cent of Australia’s 360,000 aged care workforce.

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