26 Apr Aged Care Providers Told They Must Offer Flu Jab
It will soon be mandatory for every Australian residential aged care provider to offer the flu vaccine to staff.
The move was announced over the weekend by Health Minister Greg Hunt and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt.
It coincided with the release of results of a national survey of the 2,609 homes that found 43 per cent reported at least one influenza outbreak in the previous year.
Last winter, aged care homes with only a quarter of their staff vaccinated had a 25 per cent higher rate of flu outbreaks than those with three quarters or more of their staff vaccinated, Wyatt said, adding this is why stronger action is being taken.
The Minister also pointed to an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency review of two aged care homes in Victoria and Tasmania, where 18 people died.
“Alarmingly, in these two locations, well under half of the staff had been vaccinated,” Wyatt said. “Infection control was further compromised as dozens of staff were struck down with the flu, compounding a deadly situation.”
The survey revealed that only 3.5 per cent had the recommended staff coverage of 95 per cent or higher to gain herd immunity. Just over a third had the recommended resident coverage of 95 per cent or higher.
It also found that homes providing in-house staff vaccination programs had higher coverage than those who only encouraged staff to go to an external immunisation provider.
COTA Australia welcomed the announcement as an evidence-based way of improving protection from seasonal influenza for older Australians living in residential aged care facilities.
“It is essential that staff vaccination rates be brought up to best practice levels rapidly, as staff have the most contact with nursing home residents and the vaccination is highly effective among staff, whereas its effectiveness declines among very old people, with most nursing home residents in the late 80s and 90s,” chief executive Ian Yates said.