Flu shot mandated for healthcare workers

Health care workers are mandated to get their flu shot by 15 August. Picture: ON FILE

Yarra Ranges healthcare workers will be required to receive their flu vaccination from today to protect Victorians working in high-risk settings and their patients, in line with similar requirements in New South Wales and the ACT.

Flu vaccination became a requirement for Victorian healthcare workers in 2020 but the necessity was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and to allow staff to focus on Covid-19 vaccinations.

Healthcare staff in public and private hospitals, ambulance services and public residential aged care services will now have until 15 August each year to renew their flu vaccination.

Under the legislation, currently employed workers who aren’t vaccinated by August 15 may face work restrictions or be redeployed to other parts of the health service. Unvaccinated workers may face redeployment, alternative duties, or additional personal protective equipment requirements. Termination of their employment may also be considered.

Prospective healthcare workers who aren’t vaccinated by the deadline won’t be eligible to take up a new role in a health service.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Deborah Friedman said the new settings would formalise a practice that had already seen the rate of flu vaccination across health services reach 93 per cent in 2020.

“Victorian health services have had to meet staff vaccination targets set by the Department of Health since 2014,” Associate Professor Friedman said.

“However, these flu vaccine requirements will improve their ability to protect their staff and their patients, and reduce strain on the healthcare system.

“After two years of reduced movement and interaction, we are expecting the 2022 flu season to be more challenging. I encourage all Victorians to get their seasonal flu shot from their chemist or GP as soon as possible.”

The Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Act 2020 applies to Category A and Category B healthcare workers.

They are workers who have direct physical contact with patients, clients, body substances, infectious materials or surfaces and deceased patients, and those who work in a clinical area where they may be exposed to infections spread by droplets.

Category C workers, who do not interact with patients or access patient treatment areas, will be strongly encouraged to have the flu shot.

Most health services offer a free annual employee flu vaccination program, and we encourage all healthcare workers to access those programs to protect themselves, and their patients.