It’s not for me?! Almost half of aged care workers plan to refuse or are unsure about the COVID-19 vaccine

Doctor's hands in surgical gloves preparing COVID-19 vaccine for female patient

Nearly half of aged care workers plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine according to a poll run by HelloCare this week. 

The other forty-seven per cent of aged care workers said either “no” they wouldn’t (28%) or that they were still “unsure” (19.7%) about their intentions to get the vaccination. 

Three per cent said they would get the vaccine after “more research” was done.

The HelloCare poll received nearly 400 responses over a few days. In comparison to another similar poll, asking the question, this time across a broader cross-section of the public highlighted 80% were planning on getting the vaccine.

Residents will be the ones to suffer

Aged care workers have a moral responsibility to be vaccinated, said epidemiologist Mary Louise McLaws. If they decide not to, they have no place working in aged care, she said.

“They have a moral obligation to keep the most vulnerable in our population from dying and getting sick.” 

“Do not go anywhere near-elderly, pregnant women, or anyone between 20 and 39 years of age because they represent up to 50% of our cases.”

“Do not go to work. Find another job,” McLaws.

Infectious diseases expert, Robert Booy, told HelloCare it was “really unacceptable and must be prevented” for aged care workers to go around nursing homes and pass around infection from one resident to another.

“Aged care workers are potential vectors of transmission,” he said.

“I believe that if a large portion [of aged care workers] were to say ‘no’ the government would require them to find another job,” he told HelloCare.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney told HelloCare the “national priority… must be” to do “all we can” to protect older Australians in care and the staff who look after them, from COVID-19.

Vaccine is proven

The vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective, so aged care workers have little reason not to take it. Vaccination is not only in the best interests of their clients or aged care residents but also in their own best interests.

More than 100 million doses have been administered, all over the world.

“[Aged care workers] should understand the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective.

“They can benefit themselves greatly from being vaccinated, quite apart from the benefit that will happen for their contacts, for their clients, for their residents in aged care facilities,” said Booys.

Aged care workers are “important” members of society and “critical” to the care of older people who can’t care for themselves, he said.

Older workers are themselves at risk from COVID-19

The median age of staff working in residential aged care is 48 years, and 50 years in home care. This older demographic means they are at high risk of complications from COVID-19 themselves.

McLaws also warned of the dangers of becoming a ‘long hauler’, where the effects of the COVID-19 drag on for weeks and months, and the long-term consequences still remain unclear.

Should the vaccine be compulsory for aged care workers?

“If I had an elderly relative and [vaccination] was a choice, I’d be taking them out of aged care, because there is the risk of death,” said McLaws.

Absolutely, said McLaws, vaccination “should be made compulsory. If they want to work in aged care it has to be compulsory,” she said.

“How can this be a choice when working with the most vulnerable?” she asked.

However, McLaws believes people should be given the choice of which vaccine they receive, which in Australian means choosing between the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

Booy said flu immunisations are compulsory for aged care workers and “COVID-19 should head that way too”.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is strongly encouraging and facilitating the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination by the aged care workforce, and has “left on the table” the matter of the vaccine being compulsory for aged care workers, Rooney said.

The AHPPC continues to review information as it comes to light, and its advice to the government will be guided by the data.

“The option of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in aged care should remain a consideration,” said Rooney.

Think bigger

McLaws is pleading with aged care workers to get the vaccine.

“I say to them, think bigger than themselves. Think bigger than your family. Think bigger than your community. Think of the elderly people and the fact that their families may lose their loved one too soon because somebody who worked with them, who is trusted by them, brings in a deadly disease.”

Booy is optimistic common sense will prevail.

He doesn’t believe the proportion of aged care workers indicated in HelloCare’s survey will refuse the vaccine. 

“I think once people are offered the vaccine, the majority will say ‘yes please’,” Booy said.

Let’s hope he’s right. 

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  1. We had about 50% refusing the vaccine & I have notified them all that should there be a suspected or confirmed case they will be stood down without pay until we have confirmation of no covid on site. This encouraged more to agree to the vaccine so now we sit at about 70% consenting but it’s just not good enough for healthy aged care workers to be refusing. It should have been made mandatory.

  2. Pretty extremist views – the “experts” you quote have. Looking forward to a depleted workforce when the half who disagree leave aged care. Oh , by the way, the vaccinated members of staff will probably still be able to transmit the virus to the vaccinated residents, but let’s just ignore that annoying little fact

    1. Exactly John – why is this not put forward as part of the discussion rather than outright knee jerk domination and control

  3. I’m in 2 worlds about having it. I do work in high care dementia, but am also trying to get pregnant. I’ve recently had 2 miscarriages in the space of 4 months. Am very concerned of the risk it may pose on my fertility as there is no real research regarding this. So I most likely won’t be getting it.

  4. Flu vaccination is not compulsory in aged care it is just highly recommended. So i would chq yr facts

    1. I am sorry but the government made it mandatory for all staff to have the fluvax unless you have an anaphylaxis reaction or Gillian barrs syndrome.

      1. why isn’t it mandatory for families and visitors to enter an Aged care facility to not have the covid VAX while the flu VAX is mandatory? There’s conflict here. So does that mean the flu VAX more important than the risk of dying from covid??

  5. Let’s remember how COVID 19 generally found its way into Aged Care in the first place – Aged Care Workers bringing it in if I recall. My mum’s Aged Care facility provided Australian Government information to residents and families which clearly addressed concerns about the vaccine. Surely workers have access to this same information – and it is available in translated versions on the Department of Health website. Aged Care providers must ensure their employees read and understand this information and can be reassured of the safety of the vaccines.
    I would be appalled if any unvaccinated staff went anywhere near my vulnerable mum, let alone the risk to anyone visiting her should she contract a horrible disease from someone supposedly there to take care of her.

    1. But you and families and visitors to Aged care facilities could also bring in the germs of Covid, what’s not to say any visitors won’t be taking in the Covid? How serious is the Govt about the conflict of mandatory flu VAX to enter an Aged care facility and not making it mandatory for the covid VAX? This is very contradictory.

  6. There are residents whose NOK have opted not to give consent for them to have the Covid 19 vaccine. If these family members also opt not to have the vaccine would that mean they are barred from seeing their loved ones because of the risk they pose to staff and residents?

  7. If you were looking after your aging mother or grandmother I’m sure you would be doing your level best to ensure that they could not become infected with anything. In a way aged care workers are doing just this – they are replacing family members who cannot care for their loved ones and part of their duty of care is to ensure that those in their care come to no harm. This means ensuring that they themselves take every precaution to avoid bringing infections into their workplace.

    After being tested on well over 100 million people the Covid vaccines available in Australia are very unlikely to cause harm to an individual. Maybe an assurance from employers that any slight malaise caused by the vaccination and needing the person to miss a shift will be compensated, might encourage people, but I find it hard to understand why anyone in aged care and health care should be pushing against vaccination. It will give us all freedom to behave like normal humans again!

  8. The only people who should be advising staff on whether or not to be vaccinated are medical staff, medically qualified doctors.

    Should we be saying the same to nurses working in emergency departments or geriatric wards… that if they don’t want to be vaccinated they should ‘get another job.’

    This is dangerous ground I feel and as for vaccination being a ‘moral obligation’ well that is another debate.

  9. The vaccine should be mandatory. These people are employed to care for residents not jeapordise their health.
    Family members that refuse the vaccine must be denied entry, residential care is community living and if you don’t care enough about your mum and dad then you should care about mine. Stay away.

  10. Aged care workers should not be bullied into getting this vaccine. This article is of a coercive nature. The manner it which the vaccine has been manufactured is unprecedented in our modern times. Initial side effects have been documented just as any vaccine but it is also a high risk vaccine due to not enough tests for long term effect. I am not a anti-vaxxa -all my kids and myself have been vaccinated as per the usual regime. The childhood vaccines have been proven safe over generations of use. Do we all remember the thalidomide generation? When medication was not tested effectively for long term effects, this caused heartache for a whole section of unsuspecting mothers and their innocent children.
    I enjoy my job looking after the elderly but I will not be forced to put either my health or my family’s health at risk by agreeing to this. The question also can be raised – how long does this vaccination immunity last for? How many mutations will it withstand? I keep myself safe in the community, I wear masks in high risk areas such as supermarkets, my down time is now mostly spent in outdoor activity, no crowds or enclosed spaces and obviously as a nurse hand hygiene is imperative.
    I do not love my job and your parent / grandparent as much as I love my family so if it became mandatory, I would take my 20 years of nursing experience and leave. I do not need someone standing on their soap box dictating to me to risk my future with a unknown substance. I know and understand the risks of virus. The vaccine’s risks are yet unknown.
    When it became compulsory for visitors and workers to have the annual flu vax, there were a substantial amount of elderly family members and friends that refused to have this fairly low – medium risk vaccine. Therefore there are many residents in our facilities that have no visitors any more as they weren’t loved enough by their own members to make this normalised sacrifice. These residents then become part of nurses ” extended family” where we will buy from our own pocket daily essentials that some family members don’t. For example soap, socks, basic clothing, combs etc. Sadly, nurses become their number 1 emotional support. I am certain that these number of residents left without family support will increase if covid vaccines become mandatory in aged care.

    1. Excellent response to this article. Anyone who questions the vaccine rollout is characterized as irresponsible and selfish, when we apply critical thinking , as we should as nurses , we are told to shut up. I have worked as an RN in aged care for 30 years but will leave if my employer tries to make this mandatory. The vaccine will definitely reduce the risk of severe covid disease but no one will give assurances that one cannot still transmit it post vaccination.

  11. If all of the residents are vaccinated against covid and the flu – how can they catch covid if the vaccine is so effective and why is there not a choice available like Ivermectin.
    This has been chosen in many countries and has been found affective and not harmful to the precious human body yet has been damned as non effective which is untrue.
    We were living in a democratic country – now fear seems to be taking over creating more of a communistic rule.

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