The national cabinet is ‘leaning heavily’ toward making COVID-19 vaccines compulsory for aged care workers but has not yet mandated the jab, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
Following the group’s meeting on Friday, Morrison told a press conference that national cabinet had agreed to an ‘in-principle disposition’ in regard to mandatory vaccinations for aged care workers.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) will advise governments on how this can be achieved, including a timeline. In the meantime, chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly has encouraged aged care staff to book in for the jab.
“It is important to understand that we are all wanting to protect our most vulnerable Australians. That is largely done in relation to the rollout throughout the country to every residential aged care facility, and higher rates of vaccination there,” he told the press conference.
“This extra protection is important. I would join the prime minister and all premiers and chief ministers today and really ask all aged care workers to go and get vaccinated.”
The Aged and Community Services Association (ACSA) has welcomed the move toward mandatory vaccinations for aged care workers. ACSA chair Sara Blunt said aged care providers would support the mandate, provided measures were put in place that make it easy for workers to access the jab.
“We support the introduction of mandatory covid vaccines for both residential and home care workers, with appropriate exemptions on medical and other significant grounds. The government must also give consideration to ensuring the mandatory covid vaccine scheme would not place unintended additional pressure on aged care workforce numbers,” she said.
“Even prior to compulsory vaccination of the aged care workforce, governments need to ensure good coverage of vaccination amongst workers and prioritise easy access for better protection of older residents and the wider community. This is especially critical in Victoria but should be a priority across the nation.”
Morrison has also announced that Department of Health associate secretary Caroline Edwards is retiring, as well as an agreement for establishing a new quarantine facility in Melbourne, to be run by the Victorian government.
“We will develop the facility together with the Victorian government and the commonwealth government will meet the capital costs of that and the Victorian government will make the operational costs and run the facility,” he said.
The new facility will be used in addition to the current quarantine system in Victoria.
National cabinet has also agreed that, during lockdowns, the commonwealth will provide personal income support through a temporary disaster recovery payment, while states and territories will be responsible for business support.