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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Mandatory vaccinations in aged care – what happens from today

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As of today, the Federal Department of Health will undertake monitoring and compliance work with providers and individual facilities, in line with the state and territory public health orders.

What to expect

The Department will engage directly with providers and individual facilities to discuss the vaccination and exemption data as reported on My Aged Care, to clarify if there are any unvaccinated workers and where there may be exemptions that may apply.

The Department will take a proactive and constructive approach in contacting facilities directly to:

  • Ensure continuity of resident care standards as a priority
  • understand the reasons for non-medical exemptions or unvaccinated workers
  • provide advice on the availability and access to a vaccine for unvaccinated workers
  • provide advice on exemption requirements for the relevant state or territory public health order, and
  • how to report exemptions correctly in the My Aged Care provider portal

Providers have clear obligations under the public health orders and are required to have the necessary processes in place with respect to accurate reporting, and record keeping as required under the public health orders, on workforce vaccination.

What you need to do

When contacted, facilities will be required to advise the Department of their strategy for addressing non-medical exemptions and increasing vaccination rates, including a plan to ensure all current workers not yet vaccinated receive a minimum first dose COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

Your strategy should consider overall vaccination rates at your facility, roles undertaken by unvaccinated workers, the transmission risk in your local area and other measures in place to prepare and manage the risk of COVID-19.

What happens next

The Department will share information with the state or territory and, where relevant, make a recommendation on whether formal exemptions should apply (this is not an option in all jurisdictions).

The Department will also share information with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission for further action, including immediate referral where no appropriate strategy is identified by the facility and/or provider.

If strategies are not implemented to adequately minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection, including through workforce vaccination, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission may take action, including issuing sanctions.

The relevant state or territory may then take compliance action or impose penalties where compliance with the relevant public health order is not achieved.

These penalties are detailed in the state and territory public health orders.

What you need to do now

  1. All providers and workers are encouraged to review their state or territory public health order to understand the scope of mandatory vaccination and limited exemptions that may apply. Contact your state or territory health department if you have questions regarding any aspects of the public health order.
  2. Read the Frequently Asked Questions on exemptions to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
  3. All providers should now be confirming with their workforce whether they have received their minimum first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and providing support and information to workers who are unsure or concerned about vaccination.
  4. All providers should be immediately contacting their local Primary Health Network or Commonwealth State Office if they have any workers who have issues accessing a COVID-19 vaccine prior to 17 September.
  5. All workers should now be providing evidence to their employer of their vaccination status.
  6. Providers should be supporting workers whose vaccination is not appearing on their Immunisation History Statement by contacting the vaccine provider to ensure their record is updated. The Department has provided information and advice on how to support workers on this matter several times over the past week, including How to provide your COVID-19 vaccination status to your employer.
  7. Providers should be respectfully engaging with workers who have made the decision to not be vaccinated with respect to their future, understanding that COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for all workers in residential aged care, excluding those who have authorised exemptions.
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