Should COVID-19 and flu vaccinations be enforced in aged care?
With no government mandates for the general public, there’s some confusion around vaccination requirements for staff and visitors.
Current COVID-19 and flu vax requirements in Australia
Representing the federal government, the Department of Health and Aged Care emphasises the importance of a strong infection prevention strategy for aged care providers and staff.
The National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings provides clear guidance on handling outbreaks and maintaining Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures.
What are the current requirements for the public?
Without direct government mandates for public vaccination, it falls to individual state and territory guidelines to shape policies.
The department strongly recommends staying current with flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, including receiving the 2023 booster when eligible.
The scientific expert group that provides independent advice to the department, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends booster doses for:
- Individuals aged 65+
- Individuals aged between 18-64 with higher risk factors or complex health needs
- Adults (18+) who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine or haven’t had COVID in the last six months.
Although vaccinations aren’t enforced for the public, visitors of aged care facilities should understand:
- The significance of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations when visiting high-risk residents;
- Visitors exposed to COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms should refrain from visiting for at least seven days after a positive result or until symptoms subside; and
- Face-mask requirements and regular hand sanitisation should be part of visitor policies to limit the spread of infectious diseases.
Almost 19.6 million adults have received two initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccination while approximately two-thirds of aged care residents are not fully vaccinated.
What are the current requirements for aged care employees?
As per state and government recommendations, residential aged care providers can enforce their rules regarding vaccinations, masks and testing.
While there is no official government requirement for residential aged care employees to receive the 2023 COVID booster, it is highly recommended for eligible individuals.
Are outbreaks still monitored?
As mentioned, the department can only provide recommendations, however, the department actively monitors COVID-19 outbreaks in the aged care industry.
The department monitors COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care homes and offers support, including:
- Case management;
- Access to personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Rapid antigen test kits (RAT);
- COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments;
- Supplementary workforce provisions; and
- Reimbursements for managing outbreaks.
Principles and best practices surrounding COVID-19 & expected responsibilities of providers in the event of an outbreak.
National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings.