National Seniors Australia is supporting moves to make flu shots compulsory for aged care workers following the deaths of nursing home residents in several states.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said it was fact that flu shots saved lives, particularly those of vulnerable older people, and not having them could be fatal.
He said a record number of 105,000 cases nationally had been confirmed during this year’s flu season, which was still ongoing, and more than a dozen residents had died in Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian nursing homes.
“It’s estimated every year influenza causes an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3,000 deaths in Australians over 50,” Mr Henschke said.
“Health authorities recommend flu vaccinations, but doctors face ambivalence from the public and even hostility from anti-vaccination campaigners.
“The recent deaths in several nursing homes have resulted in the Federal Health Minister asking the Chief Medical Officer to look at how he can introduce compulsory flu vaccinations for aged care workers.
“National Seniors is surprised compulsory vaccination for aged care workers doesn’t already exist and we support this move as commonsense and life-saving.”
Mr Henschke said protecting the lives of older and other vulnerable Australians was not a theoretical argument.
“This is a life and death issue,” he said. “In child care, we have a no-jab, no-admission policy that resulted in an extra 200,000 children being vaccinated. In aged care, we need a no-jab, no-work policy for staff so we can make sure no more Australians die.
“Right now, there is no requirement for aged-care workers or nursing home residents to be vaccinated.
“We agree with the AMA view that it is ‘utterly irresponsible’ for aged-care workers to work without a flu vaccination.”
Mr Henschke urged Australians aged over 65 to take advantage of the free flu shot available to them and for carers to ensure vaccinations are done for both them and the person they are looking after.