The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee ( AHPPC) has issued a statement on mandatory vaccination of all workers in health care settings.
Statement issued 1 October 2021:
AHPPC recommends mandatory vaccinations for all workers in health care settings as a condition of work.
Further, AHPPC recommends the first dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine by 30 October 2021 and a second dose by 15 December 2021.
AHPPC also recommends that all jurisdictions accept a national definition of health-care settings in their relevant legislation to ensure consistency. This national definition will include:
- Public health settings including public hospitals, public health clinics, ambulance services, patient transport services, correctional health facilities and other health services managed by a jurisdiction.
- Private health facilities, such as private hospitals or day procedure centres, or specialist outpatient services.
- Private provider facilities, such as general practitioners, private nurse offices and consulting offices, pharmacies and private pathology centres.
- Education settings that manage health care student placements, registration, and/or internships in clinical settings.
- Department of Defence health settings including Garrison health centres, deployed and exercise health support and clinical health training settings.
These settings are intended to capture all health professions, including:
- those in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme,
- all self-regulated allied health professions as published on the Australian Government Department of Health website, and
- and all other individuals who work in these settings
AHPPC notes the regulatory mechanism with which to mandate health-care settings may vary in the jurisdictions Noting the scope of health care settings in this Statement, jurisdictions may need to implement a staged approach to mandating vaccination for health care workers.
AHPPC notes that Defence manages vaccination requirements for Defence members and employees internally due to the unique operating environments.
AHPPC recommends an exemption for contractors is when they are responding to an emergency. In these cases, AHPPC recommends putting risk mitigation strategies in place to ensure unvaccinated contractors abide by COVID-safe practices.
A substantial health workforce has been necessary to roll out testing, training, vaccination, quarantine, and treatment of COVID-19 patients in the public and private health sectors. Hospitals and health services have been particularly vulnerable to outbreaks resulting in transmission risk in the hospital to staff and patients. This includes the furlough of staff and reduction in health system capacity. Although identified as a priority group for vaccination, there are still workers in health care settings who are unvaccinated.
Vaccination of persons entering health care settings is an important mechanism to protect the public, staff, and patients in these settings. AHPPC has consistently noted that vaccinated individuals are less likely to be significant drivers of spread, and that unvaccinated people dominate community transmission. AHPPC also notes increased rates of community transmission, with the Delta variant present in Australia. This poses an increased risk of exposure to both staff and patients in health care settings.
AHPPC notes that mandating vaccination for this cohort could have unintended consequences, including on the availability of the workforce. This could place increased pressure on a jurisdiction’s capacity to meet demand. However, the benefits of a highly vaccinated workforce will ensure minimal transmission in healthcare settings and minimise the need to quarantine and furlough staff.
AHPPC recognises that not all facilities are capable of being monitored for compliance with the proposed vaccine mandates. However, it is considered that these mandates will assist employers in these settings better manage vaccination requirements for employees.