Jun 20, 2024

Aged Care Providers Face Unannounced Visits for Low COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake

Aged Care Providers Face Unannounced Visits for Low COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake
A key element of this preparedness plan is ensuring that residents have easy access to periodic COVID-19 vaccinations. [iStock].

In a bid to bolster COVID-19 preparedness in aged care facilities, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has announced a series of stringent measures, including unannounced visits to homes with low vaccination rates.

This move comes as part of a broader strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of residents as the pandemic continues.

More than four years after COVID-19 was first detected in Australia, there is an expectation that every aged care provider is well-versed in necessary protocols to mitigate the risks associated with the virus.

The government has emphasised that providers must have robust systems and processes to protect residents’ health and well-being.

A key element of this preparedness plan is ensuring that residents have easy access to periodic COVID-19 vaccinations. Janet Anderson, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, has made it clear that all residential aged care providers are required to facilitate timely access to COVID-19 vaccinations for residents.

Additionally, providers must maintain stringent infection prevention and control measures to minimise the risk of outbreaks, particularly during the winter months.

“Supporting residents to understand the benefits of vaccination and to get vaccinated is a responsibility of residential aged care providers, working with local General Practitioners (GPs), community pharmacists, and the local Primary Health Network,” Anderson stated.

The government’s concern is particularly acute regarding homes with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, which raise questions about whether the providers are adequately prioritising the protection of their residents.

“We are concerned about the proportion of aged care residents who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations. Timely access to vaccination should be part of routine clinical care for every older person,” Anderson emphasised.

In response, the Commission is planning unannounced site visits to these facilities to investigate the underlying reasons for low vaccination rates and to assess the measures providers are taking to rectify the situation.

“Where we find that a provider lacks interest and/or capability to take the necessary action, and their ongoing inattention to this vital preventative measure is placing residents in harm’s way, there will be regulatory consequences,” Anderson warned.

The importance of vaccination is underscored by the fact that older adults are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, with those in residential aged care being particularly vulnerable.

Ensuring that residents stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, including having a booster dose within the last six months, is crucial. Notably, there is no longer a requirement to wait a minimum time between a previous COVID-19 infection and receiving a vaccination.

“I urge anyone living in aged care, their family and friends to carefully consider getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and keeping boosters up to date to aid protection against both infection and severe disease. It is also really important for aged care workers to get vaccinated to protect themselves and the older people they care for,” said Anderson.

Alongside unannounced visits, the Commissioner will be sending letters to providers with low vaccination rates to remind them of their obligations.

Residents who wish to get vaccinated are encouraged to speak to their aged care provider, GP, or pharmacist to make arrangements. If these efforts prove unsuccessful or residents feel uncomfortable, they are advised to contact the Commission directly at 1800 951 822.

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