Aug 18, 2021

1 in 3 aged care workers unvaccinated: Will there be a “mass exodus” of staff on September 17?

1 in 3 aged care workers unvaccinated: Will there be a “mass exodus” of staff on September 17?

One-third of aged care workers remain completely unvaccinated, according to the latest data from the Department of Health, raising concerns about the workforce’s ability to meet the looming September 17 mandatory vaccine deadline.

Age care providers have informed the Department of Health about the vaccine status of 278,268 of their workforce, revealing only two-thirds (67%) of workers have received the first jab and less than half (46%) are fully vaccinated.

The low take-up rate underscores the difficulty in getting people vaccinated.

The alarming data comes less than a month out from the September 17 deadline, and two months after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the vaccine would be mandatory.

When announcing the decision, Morrison promised monitoring to ensure there wasn’t a “mass exodus” of staff from the sector, an acknowledgement the decision could be controversial.

Since then, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia has assessed that Australia’s aged care sector will need at least 110,000 extra workers over the next decade, and by 2050 will need more than 400,000 workers. 

Any loss of workers from the sector at this point would be deeply concerning.

Yet, the vaccine uptake data for aged care workers suggests some workers will leave the sector as a result of mandatory vaccines.

Overcoming vaccine hesitancy

On Monday, the government issued aged care providers with an information kit to help them overcome vaccine hesitancy among workers, and to promote ways for aged care staff to get vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible.

The campaign included a new video featuring vaccinated aged care workers.

All residential aged care workers, regardless of their age, have been given priority access to the Pfizer vaccine, and vaccines are available through on-site vaccination clinics, GPs, Commonwealth vaccination clinics (GP respiratory clinics), Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and pharmacies. 

While some aged care workers will be vaccinated through their place of work, others will organise their vaccines themselves. The government is strongly encouraging these aged care workers to notify their employers when they are vaccinated.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Following are details for where aged care workers can be vaccinated in each state.

Australian Capital Territory 

  • Residential aged care workers have priority access at ACT Vaccination clinics. 
  • Book your appointment by calling the booking line on (02) 5124 7700 (7am to 7pm daily). 
  • Identify yourself as an aged care worker. You’ll be asked to confirm your employment to be prioritised for an appointment. 
  • All residential aged care workers are eligible for priority access, including those without a Medicare card and those who hold an immigration visa.

Queensland

  • Residential aged care workers are able to walk in to any Queensland Health (QH) vaccination location to be vaccinated.
  • If unable to be accommodated for Pfizer vaccination on the day at a QH vaccination location, aged care workers will be booked for the next available appointment.
  • QH vaccination locations can be found here.

Victoria

  • Victorian-run COVID-19 vaccination clinics are also prioritising residential aged care workers, including volunteers engaged by facilities and students on placement.
  • You do not need a Medicare card to book an appointment or receive a vaccine.
  • Victorian residential aged care workers can book an appointment at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/book-your-vaccine-appointment or by calling the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for priority access appointments.
  • Aged care workers can also call the COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080 (select option 4). The dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline can answer any questions about vaccination and help you book a vaccination appointment.

New South Wales 

  • NSW Health is providing priority appointments up to August 22 for residential aged care workers.
  • Bookings can be made and details found on the NSW Health website, including details of the local government areas and suburbs of concern.

 

HelloCare contacted the Department of Health at the time of publishing this article, but had not received a response.

 

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