With aged care workers often a key link between the community and aged care residents, combined with the highly infectious nature of the Delta strain now circulating in Australia, the decision was widely anticipated and welcomed in most quarters.
Epidemiologist and advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on COVID-19, Mary Louise McLaws, told HelloCare the flu vaccine is compulsory for aged care workers, so it was “logical” the COVID-19 vaccine would be too.
“We’ve had over 600 deaths in the outbreaks in residential aged care facilities last year. No one wants that on their conscience,” McLaws said.
The only way to prevent an aged care worker being a conduit to residents, and to other staff and colleagues, is to be as “risk reduced” as possible, and that means being vaccinated.
McLaws said it was well-known that vaccines were likely to become mandatory for aged care workers, and providers could have urged those who did not wish to be vaccinated to find roles without resident contact.
Many aged care workers are distressed that the vaccine has been made mandatory, and we have received many questions on HelloCare’s pages.
Reader question: Should family members of aged care staff be vaccinated too?
A great question that has been put forward is, ‘Whether family members of [aged care] staff will require vaccination too, considering they are our closest contacts and are out in public daily?’
The question is particularly pertinent considering the Delta strain now usually infects all household members once one person contracts the illness.
McLaws said the Delta strain is “known to be able to allude … diagnostic tests” and is “faster and fitter” than the other variants.
It spreads more quickly and across greater distances than the other variants too.
McLaws said members of aged care worker households did not necessarily have to be vaccinated, but if they wanted to be “it’s good”. She said they should be given priority when it comes to being vaccinated, but they do not carry the same degree of risk as aged care workers.
Regarding concerns that household members who are out in the community could then pass on the virus to an aged care worker who could then carry it into an aged care home, “they won’t if that aged care worker is vaccinated,” said McLaws.
She said the risk of an aged care worker infecting household members was small, the risk generally being the other way, from the community to the aged care worker, and then into the aged care home.
“The mandatory vaccine is to stop community COVID-19 going into a very cloistered group who are only at risk from visitors and staff because of that very close working relationship with them, where they’re picking them up, they’re dressing them, they’re feeding them, or they’re just around looking after them in a peripheral manner,” said McLaws.
What do you think? Should family members of aged care workers be vaccinated too? Share your thoughts below.