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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Australia should look to the outstanding vaccination example set by our aged care workforce: opinion

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By Professor Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer

Our aged care workforce really deserves the gratitude of all Australians for demonstrating its commitment to caring for and protecting senior Australians by getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccination rate among the residential aged care workforce is now more than 99 per cent for first jabs, with 83 per cent of the workforce fully vaccinated.

These are astonishingly positive numbers, and among the highest rates of vaccination in the world for a specific workforce.

Residential aged care workers have listened to the message about the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent serious illness and reduce the risk of the virus spreading, which helps to protect senior Australians.

I saw firsthand during the Victorian outbreak in 2020, just how devastating COVID-19 could be in a residential aged care setting.

It is something I, and I’m sure every single Australian, never want to see again.

Between having the vaccine and the other infection control measures in place, our residential aged care workers are doing everything they can to protect senior Australians.

If we look beyond that 99 per cent vaccination rate, what it really adds up to is over a quarter of a million people receiving the vaccine – workers who have decided getting vaccinated is the right thing to do for themselves, their families, their communities and the senior Australians in their care.

The National Cabinet agreed with the best medical advice and recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, that mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for residential aged care workers was a proportionate step to ensure every effort was taken to protect residents in their care.

The result is better than many of us thought could be achieved.

Each and every one of these workers should be proud of their decision, and we should all be proud of them.

With such high vaccination rates among workers, Australia’s aged care residents and their families and friends can have confidence that their care will continue as normal, with the added confidence that there is another layer of protection against COVID-19 now in place.

These high vaccination rates don’t completely remove the risk of COVID-19 transmission into residential aged care as we are seeing in the current outbreaks, but combined with the infection prevention and control processes now in place within residential aged care are helping to significantly lower that risk.

I urge all Australians who have loved ones in residential aged care to get vaccinated as well to lower the risk of introducing the virus when visiting, noting that restrictions on visits are in place in some jurisdictions currently facing outbreaks.

Beyond the residential aged care sector, we continue to see Australia’s vaccination rate on the rise as we pass 54 per cent of the population over 16 years being double vaccinated.

The arrival of Moderna vaccine doses now adds another vaccination alternative for Australians, alongside the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) and Comirnaty (Pfizer) jabs.

We should look to the example set by our aged care workforce, get vaccinated, protect ourselves and the people around us who we care for and care about, and look forward to being able to resume our normal lives sooner, rather than later.

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