FLU BATTLE: Government takes action to ensure safety of Australians in aged care.
FLU BATTLE: Government takes action to ensure safety of Australians in aged care. Paul McKeon

Aged care staff must have flu injections

THE Federal Government health and aged care ministers jointly announced today that all residential aged care staff must have a flu injection.

Off the back of a report showing a link between staff immunisation and lower reported cases of aged care venue flu outbreaks, the government hopes this strategy will help to see a significant reduction in the worrying number of reported cases among residents during this flu season.

Last year over 1100 flu-associated deaths were reported in Australia, with people aged 65 years and older accounting for more than 90 per cent of these.

Aged & Community Services Australia chief executive officer Pat Sparrow said, "Consideration will need to be given to the circumstances of those individuals unable to be vaccinated for medical or cultural reasons, including the workforce implications for unvaccinated aged care workers."

No details were provided in the Federal Government announcement about how and when the vaccine program will come into place, nor who will pay for it. The only guide as to who looks like being made responsible for its implementation is the Federal Health Minister's comment that, "it will now be mandatory for every aged care provider to offer the flu vaccine to every single worker."

"There is more detail to be worked through about the practicalities of administering this nationally but, overall, we welcome this announcement for the boosted protection it will provide older Australians and their families," Ms Sparrow added.

"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," Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said.

"Vaccination is imperative for staff and residents in aged care, where the flu can spread quickly and have devastating consequences.

"I urge all Australians to have their flu shot, especially those who regularly visit loved ones living in aged care homes.

"Every one of us has a responsibility to reduce the chance of spreading the virus among some of our most vulnerable citizens," Mr Wyatt added.

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