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Aged care staff now have less than three weeks to receive their first jab or will face losing their jobs.

Vaccine deadline looms as government releases new data

The government has released nationwide aged care workforce vaccine data as the September deadline counts down to under three weeks. 

In an interactive map, Health Department numbers display average immunisation rates by geographic location, identifying broad differences between metro and outer city facilities.

On Sunday, NSW announced 1,218 new local cases, the largest state figures recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the six people who died three were in their 80s, including a man linked to an outbreak in a south-west Sydney aged care facility. 

As of August 29, aged care homes in NSW LGAs of concern including Canterbury, Fairfield and Liverpool have 90 percent of workers on their first dose. Outer Sydney areas including the Sutherland Shire are falling behind at 40 to 49 per cent. 

All aged care workers must have received their first dose by September 17.

As of August 25, around 76 per cent of the 275,289 workers in the sector have had their first jab, with 54 per cent fully vaccinated. 

New data shows colour coded vaccine rates in aged care facilities across NSW. Source: Department of Health.

Peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) will provide a support initiative for providers struggling to meet the upcoming deadline.

In collaboration with the Health department, the Staff Vaccination Support Service will target facilities yet to reach the first-dose threshold and assist them in navigating barriers to vaccine access. 

A social media campaign under the hashtag #ProudtoProtect was launched to ramp up awareness around the service and employers will be provided a toolkit to support discussions with staff. 

Union leader warns of a ‘workforce crisis’

President of the Health Services Union Gerard Hayes has spoken to hundreds of aged care staff over the past few weeks and said the mandate will force workers out of the industry.

“They’re very concerned and the hesitancy is very high in terms of vaccinations," said Hayes.

“I’m really concerned that the closer we get to the 17th, people who aren’t anti-vaxers, but aren’t confident, may look for positions elsewhere.”

Between the royal commission and COVID-19, Hayes said the government should extend the mandate to avoid exacerbating staff shortages.

“I think they are going to have to, otherwise they may well face a workforce crisis,” said Hayes.

“I know they are trying to engage at many different levels, but this is one industry that’s been subjected through the royal commission and has clearly been identified as an area where attraction and retention isn’t great.

“This is something that is going to need to be fixed now.”

The next three weeks will be critical, according to Hayes, who predicts that there will be a growing push to adjust the mandated vaccine date.

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