Flu vaccinations could soon be compulsory for aged care workers, following a deadly outbreak of the virus at a number of facilities around the country.
Currently there is no legal requirement for aged care workers to have a flu vaccination, but Health Minister Greg Hunt said he wanted to change that.
“We’ll be moving to ensure all health workers in the aged care sector are vaccinated subject to any medical exemptions,” he said.
“This is an emerging issue — it’s never happened before in Australian history.”
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has been asked by the Federal Government to investigate how to make the vaccinations compulsory and whether it will require legislation.
“The chief medical officer will work with the aged care bodies and the aged care industry, but we’ve already seen from the sector an overwhelming request and support for the initiative,” Mr Hunt said.
‘Patients have the right to refuse’
The Australian Medical Association’s Lorraine Baker said mandatory vaccinations would be a difficult measure to achieve.
“Patients in nursing homes have the right to refuse vaccination,” she said.
“I’m a GP, I go to nursing homes, I had patients who refuse to have the flu vaccine … one of those did in fact get the flu.”
Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said any loss of life in aged care was a concern, particularly when the cause was influenza.
“I would encourage people to get a vaccination or a flu injection, especially if you work in places with people who are vulnerable,” he said.
“I implore people to give serious consideration to staying away or wearing a mask.”
Mr Hunt said he wanted the compulsory vaccinations in place by next year’s flu season.