Professor Greg Dore says all health care workers in Australia should be vaccinated for Covid, 14 September 2021

An infectious diseases physician says the federal government must make Covid vaccinations compulsory for all health care workers.

An infectious diseases expert has called on all health care workers to be vaccinated, saying the number who are still yet to receive a jab is astounding.

From Friday all residential aged care staff are required to have at least one dose of a Covid vaccine to minimise the risks to elderly residents.

The federal government says that 90.8 per cent of staff have now received a single dose and 70.5 per cent two doses.

However, Greg Dore, Head of Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program at the Kirby Institute, said that still meant 30,000 workers haven’t received one jab yet.

“To be honest I’m still gobsmacked there are still health care workers who have not been vaccinated, its very very, very odd,” he said.

“All jurisdictions across Australia should have mandatory vaccination for health care workers it seems pretty straight forward,” he told ABC. “It should have been mandatory back in March.”

National cabinet agreed to the mandate in July, with the decision requiring public health orders of state and territory governments to come into effect.

It is still unclear how the mandate will be enforced.

The Health Services Union’s federal president, Gerard Hayes, told The Guardian the federal government needed to extend the September deadline given existing workforce pressures.

Only one in five aged care homes close to vaccinating all staff against Covid as deadline looms.

“They cannot afford to have 5 to 10 per cent of aged care staff not at work,” Hayes said.

“I think the concern I have always had, and as the aged care royal commission showed, there are attrition and retention issues in aged care already. It is already subject to workforce shortages as we all know.”

Mr Hayes estimated that only about 1 to 1.5 per cent of people were anti-vaxxers, with the remaining 8 per cent wanting more information.

“I think they need at least two weeks to a month (more time) so they are able to target those individuals who do hold concerns or confusion, but to be able to deal with them in a dignified way so they can really feel valued, rather than in a punitive way,” he said.

The government had said aged care workers would be included in the first wave of the rollout around April but there have been consistant delays.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday that said he felt that there would a rush towards vaccination in the final week before the deadline.

“In terms of aged care, we’re now at 90.8 per cent of aged care workers. We’re expecting that there will be a significant uptick over the coming days.

“Two things are happening. The facilities are now identifying those that have medical exemptions, those are on long service leave, those that might be on maternity leave. And then at the same time, there are additional vaccines and we’re finding very significant additional reporting,” he said. “So we’re working closely with the facilities, so we are very focused on this. But we think that it will be in a very strong position by the end of the week, and we’ll provide an update at National Cabinet on that.”

The NSW government is making vaccines mandatory for all state health workers and major companies in the private sector have also started taking this step including airline Qantas, which is requiring all its 22,000 workers to get the jab.

A survey from national employer association Ai Group of more than 700 companies found majority support for some form of mandatory vaccination of staff.