The sector cannot afford to lose even 5% of its workforce, the HSU said, according to a report by The Guardian.
According to the federal government, 90.8% of aged care staff have received their first jab and 70.5% are fully vaccinated with two doses.
With Friday, September 17, the deadline for aged care workers to have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the government expects the number of aged care staff receiving the vaccine to increase sharply in the next few days.
However, the Federal President of the HSU, Gerard Hayes, said the government needs to extend the deadline by two to four weeks because there is already a shortage of aged care workers and the workforce is under intense pressure.
Aged care workers need more time to have their questions answered, and to feel their concerns are being listened to, rather than being punished for their views, Hayes said.
“There are attrition and retention issues in aged care already,” he said. “It is already subject to workforce shortages.”
Hayes said only about 1% of people are “hardcore anti-vaxxers”, and about 8% would like to see more information about the jab.
A survey after a recent HSU webinar found information provided by doctors during the presentation caused 26% of attendees to change their mind about vaccination.
“It gave people the ability to ask questions and have those questions answered,” Hayes told The Guardian.
A recent poll on HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group showed 9% of members who responded to the poll plan to leave the sector due to mandatory vaccines.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt told The Guardian the government is expecting “a significant uptick [in vaccination numbers among aged care workers] over the coming days”.
National cabinet made the vaccine mandatory for aged care workers in June, and from the beginning there has been hesitancy from large numbers of staff in the sector.
It remains to be seen how providers or the government will enforce the mandatory requirement.
Labor’s health spokesman, Mark Butler, asked what will happen after Friday’s deadline.
The Prime Minister’s “simple advice” was that everyone should get vaccinated.