Hospital pharmacists urge worker protection

As Australia hits a new vaccine milestone, SHPA has added its voice to calls for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all hospital workers

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia is also calling for rapid antigen testing for hospital workers in jurisdictions where COVID-19 is present in the community.

The call comes as vaccine doses administered at Australia’s state and territory run clinics reached the 10 million milestone on Thursday, almost half of the national total of over 23 million vaccines administered.

SHPA President Peter Fowler says there is an urgent need to protect hospital workers, patients and visitors as community transmission increases while the COVID-19 vaccination program continues.

“Mandating broader vaccination uptake will help protect hospital workers, regardless of their profession, from becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19,” he said.

“With the current outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, there are cumulatively thousands of hospital workers who are currently isolating, or have had to recently isolate.

“Vaccination provides a powerful layer of protection, while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“This is crucial during this period of enormous strain on our frontline workers who are stretched by staffing state-run vaccination clinics in addition to maintaining core hospital services in a COVID-safe manner.

“SHPA celebrates our hospital pharmacist and technician members’ efforts in state and territory clinics reaching the 10 million dose milestone today, but our efforts are far from over as we strive towards achieving 80% double dose vaccination targets across the country.

“The more we protect our members and their colleagues, the better resourced they are to continue Australia’s largest public health initiative.”

With the call SHPA joins a number of major national healthcare organisations and associations supporting a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees or members, while mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for hospital workers have been announced across NSW Health, Queensland Health, WA Health and the Tasmanian Health Service.

Mr Fowler says rapid antigen testing for workers entering hospital premises is a powerful additional testing strategy in areas where COVID-19 is circulating in the community.

“This fast, on-the-spot testing will help us detect unknown infection in hospital staff, to further protect them, their teams and their patients,” he said.

“As the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response indicates, COVID-19 will be present in the community after we have reached our vaccination targets.

“As long as the risk of infection remains, we must use every tool at our disposal to protect the health and wellbeing of all Australians.”

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