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COVID-19 Newsflash #58 COVID-19 vaccination directive issued – all healthcare settings

COVID-19 Newsflash #58 COVID-19 vaccination directive issued – all healthcare settings

The Victorian Chief Health Officer on 30 September published the directions regarding requirements for workers in all healthcare settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

These directions are consistent with those issued for aged care workers and those in other states and territories across the country. They apply to all workers or contractors in health care settings, including those working in shops located within health settings.

The directions apply to all Victorian healthcare workers including nurses, midwives, maternal and child health nurses, those working in the student employment models – Registered Undergraduate Students of Nursing (RUSONs) and Registered Undergraduate Students of Midwifery (RUSOMs) and nursing and midwifery students on clinical placement.

Worker obligations

From 15 October 2021 all healthcare workers at public, private, and not-for profit healthcare settings in Victoria must be able to, as a minimum, provide evidence showing they have:

  1. received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 15 October 2021, or
  2. an appointment to receive at least their first dose by 29 October 2021, or
  3. a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

From 30 October 2021, healthcare workers must be able to provide evidence showing they have:

  1. a full COVID-19 vaccination of two doses, or
  2. one COVID-19 vaccination dose and a booking for a second by 15 December 2021, or
  3. a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

Employer obligations

Between 15 and 29 October 2021, employers must ensure workers who have not provided evidence of their vaccination or valid medical exemption do not enter the healthcare setting unless they:

  1. provide evidence that they have an appointment to be vaccinated by 29 October 2021, and
  2. wear additional personal protective equipment (at a minimum, a surgical mask and face shield, though certain healthcare settings may require higher levels of PPE), at all times that they are present at the healthcare settings.

From 30 October 2021 employers cannot allow a worker entry to the healthcare setting unless that worker has provided evidence of:

  1. a full COVID-19 vaccination of two doses
  2. one COVID-19 vaccination dose and a booking for a second by 15 December 2021
  3. a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

From 15 December 2021, employers must ensure all workers entering the setting are fully vaccinated or have provided evidence of a medical exemption.

Medical exemptions

If you are unable to be vaccinated due to a medical contraindication as determined by ATAGI clinical guidance you will be required to provide evidence to your employer from an authorised medical practitioner. This evidence must be from one of the following:

  1. a general practice registrar on an approved 3GA training placement
  2. a public health physician
  3. an infectious disease physician
  4. a clinical immunologist
  5. gynaecologists
  6. obstetricians
  7. a GP who is vocationally registered
  8. a GP who is a fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  9. a GP who is a fellow of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

Your GP will be able to advise you if they meet one of the above criteria.

Temporary exception

In limited circumstances temporary exceptions to the direction can be approved by the operator of a healthcare facility, in relation to:

  1. a worker whose work or duties at a healthcare setting are necessary to provide for urgent and unforeseen specialist clinical or medical care due to an emergency or unforeseen circumstance such as organ donation or retrieval.
  2. unforeseen circumstances (e.g. mass furlough following an outbreak) where workers need to be deployed to fill vacancies to provide urgent care, maintain the quality of patient care or to continue essential operations of the healthcare service.

Workers with temporary exceptions will be required to wear PPE of at least a surgical mask and face shield, noting the PPE guidance may be higher depending on the setting or work.

The full Victorian Chief Health Officer directions are available.
Read the Department of Health’s Healthcare worker update – COVID-19 vaccination requirements’ [PDF]

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to get vaccinated to keep working?

Yes, to continue working you will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless you have a valid medical exemption.

What if I can’t get an appointment in time?

Vaccination appointments are available through participating doctors’ clinics, pharmacies, community health services or state vaccination centres.

Nurses and midwives can book a priority appointment (Pfizer or Moderna regardless of age) at state vaccination centres. Call the Victorian Government Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 and tell the hotline operator you are a healthcare worker.

Public sector nurses and midwives have access to half a day’s paid leave (though many employers have provided vaccination opportunities at their workplaces and through in-reach programs) to have your vaccination. Up to four days special leave are available if symptoms after receiving your vaccine prevent you from attending work. The public sector enterprise agreement personal leave evidence requirements apply.

I have a valid medical exemption can I keep working?

Yes, provided you give evidence to your employer from an authorised medical practitioner before 15 October 2021.

I haven’t been vaccinated yet – what happens to me?

You have a window in which to be vaccinated, from 30 October 2021 your employer cannot allow you entry to the facility unless you have provided evidence of either:

  1. a full COVID-19 vaccination of two doses, or
  2. one COVID-19 vaccination dose and a booking that will take place no later than 15 December, for a second dose; or
  3. a valid medical exemption.

Can I be penalised?

There are two circumstances where individual staff may be subject to a penalty of up to $10,904.40 (60 penalty units) in relation to COVID-19 vaccination:

  1. False or misleading information – you must not give false or misleading information or documents, or make false or misleading statements in respect to your vaccination status.
  2. False or misleading entries – you must not make an entry in a document that is false or misleading, such as registering someone as having been vaccinated when you knew that was untrue.

It is a defence to the charge if you can prove that at the time at which the offence is alleged to have been committed, you believed on reasonable grounds that the information, statement or document was true or was not misleading.

What about visitors to healthcare services?

Vaccination is strongly encouraged for anyone entering a healthcare setting, but it is not currently required. ANMF continues to advocate for this requirement.

Read the Victorian GovernmentInformation for workers required to be vaccinated frequently asked questions

Federal ANMF COVID-19 vaccination position

Nurses, midwives and aged care personal care workers work with vulnerable patients, clients and residents. Immunisation is reasonable in these settings as part of a range of infection control measures.

ANMF supports required immunisation against COVID-19 for nurses, midwives and personal care workers, unless there is a medical exemption, to protect yourself, your colleagues, your family, your patients and the community.

For the same reasons, ANMF is advocating that there should also be a vaccination requirement of visitors to aged and healthcare services.

Read the Federal ANMF COVID-19 vaccination position.

Science of vaccines webinar

ANMF encourages all members to be informed about COVID-19 vaccines. The fast-moving pace of COVID-19 science both from disease progression and treatments has been hard to keep up with. Nurses and midwives are well-positioned to advocate for science and safety.

In a webinar hosted by Federal ANMF on 26 August 2021, Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish (RN, PhD) and nurse immuniser Romy Blacklaw presented the safety processes, research, surveillance of adverse events (including data on safety so far) and the difference between COVID-19 vaccines.

Members can view the ‘Vaccine science in the context of COVID-19’ webinar (1 hour CPD) via the ANMF (Vic Branch) CPD Portal.