A new initiative to boost vaccination rates among aged care workers has been launched amid figures which reveal our worst flu season on record
The latest figures from the Immunisation Coalition have revealed that to date, there have been 132,727 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza in Australia in 2017.
The previous highest number on record had been 100,590 in 2015.
August alone saw 78,080 cases of flu, and as of 4 September, another 579 cases have been recorded so far this month.
Professor Paul VanBuynder, of the Gold Coast Health Service, and the Immunisation Coalition recently told media that the uptick in flu cases this year cannot be attributed to increased reporting, nor to GPs’ takeup of desktop testing methods, as the latter are not included in the official data.
Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt have announced that the Turnbull Government will investigate ways to boost vaccination rates among workers in aged care facilities, including making the flu vaccine compulsory, following an increase in flu deaths.
Mr Hunt says he has requested Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, investigate ways to ensure all aged care workers are properly vaccinated against flu.
“I will work with the medical authorities, health care workers and the aged care providers on how we can make it compulsory for those working in aged care facilities,” Minister Hunt said.
“We cannot continue to have a situation where people, whose immunity is already low, are at risk from others who may be infected.”
“Our job is to protect those who need our care,” Minister Hunt said.
This type of action has never been undertaken before by any previous government, he said.
At present there is no requirement for aged care workers to be vaccinated under law, however providers have a duty of care to provide the safest possible environment for their residents and carers.
This investigation follows deaths of seven elderly residents at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta in Victoria and reports of fatalities from flu at Strathdevon Aged Care in Tasmania.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has instructed the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to conduct an urgent review into the practices of all aged care facilities.
“Older people are always vulnerable to the flu, but the many deaths this year are unacceptable,”
Minister Wyatt said.
Australian Medical Association Victorian president Dr Lorraine has told media that it’s not too late for Australians to be vaccinated against the disease.
She said there is a “growing” population of people who do not get vaccinated.