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Friday, December 1, 2023

Aged care worker vaccine decision welcomed, but questions remain

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The chair of one of Australia’s largest aged care providers has welcomed the belated decision to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for all workers.

Nursing home staff will need to have their first shot by mid-September if they want to keep working in aged care.

Unions are concerned the Federal Government is not offering enough support to workers, while aged care providers are worried about how their staff will get access to the vaccine.

Peter Shergold, who runs Opal Aged Care, said he’s relieved by the National Cabinet decision to mandate vaccines for all staff.

Shergold, however, acknowledged it raised questions around whether the requirement would deter people from working in aged care, as well as respecting the rights of individuals to make their own decisions.

But he said frail, elderly people in aged care settings were the most vulnerable in Australia.

“Protecting them has got to be our number one, two and three priorities,” Shergold told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“In this crisis we do need to say ‘sorry, if you want to work in an aged care home, we require you to be vaccinated’.”

Shergold said the vast majority of frontline aged care staff wanted to get vaccinated, having put themselves at significant risk throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

He said workers had shown resilience, dedication and courage throughout the 18-month ordeal.

“What we need to do is to make it easy and convenient for them to do so.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus also believes it is too difficult for aged care workers to get vaccinated.

She wants team of vaccinators deployed to aged care homes to give out jabs to staff.

Shelgold supports the idea and also wants roving virus clinics to be rolled out across the country.

Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow believes supply issues are responsible for low vaccine rates among aged care workers.

Sparrow said the most important thing for wide take-up of vaccines was to make it easier for workers to get it.

“The best way to improve vaccination rates is to make it as easy as possible for aged care workers, including through on-site workplace vaccination,” she said.

“We simply have not seen the level of urgency, planning or clear communication needed from the federal government and this must be corrected urgently.”

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