Last week, we reported that providers were struggling to access the flu vaccine in time to meet the 1 May deadline for all residential aged care staff and visitors – including family, friends and external workers – to be vaccinated – one week away.
The Department tells us some providers have “expressed concern” about their ability to meet this deadline.
“The Department understands this is due to difficulty accessing supply of influenza vaccines or accessing appropriately qualified individuals, in some locations, within the timeframe,” their spokesperson said.
However, they would not reveal how many operators had reported access issues or say if it would relax this timeframe in order for providers to fulfil the requirement if there continue to be a shortage of the vaccines.
The Department says it has asked the Primary Heath Networks (PHN) to help aged care facilities with this issue – what will happen though if they don’t have stocks available?
Law firm Russell Kennedy has issued advice on flu vaccinations which notes that in all States and Territories other than South Australia, the requirement does not apply if a vaccination is not available to a person, for example, they have previously experienced anaphylaxis or Guillain-Barre Syndrome following vaccination or on check point inhibitor drugs for cancer treatment.
However, Russell Kennedy say it is less clear if a staff member or visitor could say the vaccine is not available to them if there is a limited supply of the vaccine, e.g. in a regional area.
“It is possible that some States and Territories may accept this as a reason not to have the vaccine,” the advice states.
Providers must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person does not enter or remain on the premises if they do not have the required flu vaccination – including collecting evidence of vaccinations.