Apr 23, 2018

The Jab Gets Its Day – Aged Care Workers To Be Offered Free Flu Injections

Once upon a time, when we were all but young, healthy, strapping university students, the thought of forking out some money to get a flu shot was preposterous.

The flu, if you were susceptible enough to get it, would allow for a solid week off from studies, extensions on all assignments and an opportunity to get through that gloriously gripping book (pre the dawn of Netflix mind you).

Yet as age, maturity and wisdom gifted themselves upon us, the flu and its myriad of consequences have become apparent, the importance of the humble flu shot becoming paramount.

In light of scientific and statistical evidence over the past few years, the Federal government will now make it mandatory for “every aged-care provider to offer the flu vaccine to every single worker”.

Yet for some, flu vaccinations have been avoided and there is a need to address the holistic benefits of the flu shot for all.

In what was dubbed the horror year of flu, 2017 saw well over 1000 people pass away due to influenza related illnesses with the majority of deaths stemming from those 65 years of age and older.

Desiring to prevent a reoccurrence of 2017s numbers, the Turnbull government is legislating to instate the standard by which every aged-care facility will be required by law to at least offer the flu jab to all staff.

It is a great start to establishing an awareness of the importance of the flu shot in a contextual and personal sense.

The mandate does not state to, nor have the motive to force aged-care workers to accept the flu jab.

Aged-care Minister Ken Wyatt stated, when asked as to the decision of some workers choosing not to accept the jab, “There will be some individuals who will take a stand, but then again, that is up to the provider to make a decision in respect to that individual … they can move staff to other locations.”

Workers will in no way be forced to accept the vaccine, the imperative to act lies upon aged-care facilities and management to offer the vaccine to all employed personnel.

Yet there is still space to fill in terms of educational assistance as to why the flu jab is so important.

When pressed as to what right the government had to tell the workers they must get the vaccine, Mr Wyatt replied, “What right does a senior, frail Australian have to be protected from someone who chooses not to (get the vaccine) and then ends up with a virulent flu that then causes their death?”

It is in the effort to protect the most vulnerable that this standard is being set.

The Government maintains that the healthy standard and rate of vaccinated personnel within health care and aged care facilities stands at 95%, this percentage securing “herd immunity”.

Many facilities still have a long way to go to reach a 95% vaccination rate but securing free jabs for those working in the industry is a reasoned and logistically sound start.

To reach the 95% however, arguably an educational approach for facilities and workers is a wise angle to tackle misinformation and any concern still surrounding the flu jab.

The decision to go ahead with this mandate comes in light of a national review that has evidenced a correlation between low vaccination rates among staff and higher instances of the flu in aged-care facilities.

If momentum continues in this area, reaching “herd immunity” and reducing avoidable deaths relating to the flu will become an accessible reality.

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