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Experts push for mandatory flu jabs for all healthcare workers

A group of immunisation experts has again lent its weight to the push for mandatory healthcare worker vaccination.

The Immunisation Coalition, which advocates for whole-of-life immunisation, said flu shots should be mandatory for all care, allied health and ancillary staff members and their employers to protect themselves and the vulnerable people in their care.

Professor Robert Booy, director of the Immunisation Coalition, said although some voluntary healthcare worker vaccination programs have been effective when combined with strong institutional leadership and robust educational campaigns, the rates of influenza vaccination among healthcare workers in Australia remain sub-optimal, ranging from 16.3 to 58.7 per cent.

In September last year, the ministers for health and aged care announced a move to make the flu jab compulsory for aged care staff.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government will investigate ways to make the flu vaccine compulsory for these workers following the deaths of seven elderly residents at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta in Victoria and reports of fatalities from flu at Strathdevon Aged Care in Tasmania.

The Immunisation Coalition would like the move to be extended to all healthcare settings.

Booy said: “We support the development of a formal national guideline that positions vaccination as a condition of employment when working in patient contact roles. This condition should be implemented in combination with strict criteria for exemptions and the wearing of surgical masks during the influenza season for those granted these exemptions.”

Aged Care Insite spoke with Booy about the way mandatory vaccinations would be surveilled and the difference the move would make to infection rates.

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