CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Aged care providers have warned of a coronavirus blind spot if community workers are not included in a vaccine mandate.
Catholic Health Australia, which represents residential and home-based aged care providers, has urged the national cabinet to close the loophole. Catholic Health Australia represents 75 hospitals and 550 residential and community aged care services and comprises Australia’s largest non-government not-for-profit grouping of health and aged care services.
The mandate does not apply to 150,000 aged care workers who care for one million older Australians living in the community.
Chief executive Pat Garcia said the community aged care workforce needed just as much protection as staff in nursing homes.
“Our workers need to feel confident in going out into the community just as the community needs to feel confident about letting them into their homes,” he said on July 2.
“If anything, given their role is to go out and about into the community these workers should be given absolute priority for protection.” The national cabinet has decided to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all residential aged care workers.
Staff will need to receive the first dose by mid-September to continue working in the sector.
The federal government gives aged care providers AU$11 million ($8.21 million) in grants to support employees getting vaccines.
Casual workers will be paid AU$80 ($59.68) per dose to go off-site for vaccinations. They will also be given AU$185 ($138.01) for a day’s sick leave if they feel unwell and have no other entitlements.
Aged care facilities will be offered up to AU$500 ($373) to cover the costs of facilitating access to vaccines for their workers.
“This will cover transport services, arranging groups of workers to be vaccinated and any other reasonable expenses that support workers to get vaccinated,” Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said.
A third of aged care workers have received at least one coronavirus jab.
Senior army officer John Frewen, who is heading the vaccination program, said every aged care facility in the country was on track to receive their first and second dose vaccination visits by the end of July 2. Frewen is satisfied with vaccination rates among older Australians.
“We’re now at more than 70 percent of our over-70s on the first dose,” he said to the reporters in Canberra.
“Over the weeks ahead, many of them will be getting their second dose of AstraZeneca, so the fully vaccinated rates in that most vulnerable cohort will also rise.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Ritaban Misra)
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