Disability worker vaccine mandate rejected

·2-min read

Disability support workers will not yet be forced to get vaccinated against coronavirus in order to keep their jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Disability Minister Linda Reynolds were confident national cabinet would agree to the vaccine mandate.

But for now, vaccinations for people working in disability care will only remain a strong preference.

State and territory leaders received a written submission from Australia's medical expert panel on Friday.

"While they are not at this point recommending mandating vaccines for disability care workers, they are strongly recommending it," Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

State and territory leaders are understood to have raised concerns about workforce shortages if vaccines were made compulsory.

Mr Morrison said incentives proposed for nursing home staff could eventually be offered to disability workers.

"We would look to extend that to disability care workers as well," he said.

Karen Stace from peak body National Disability Services said the failure to mandate vaccines for people working in the sector was hugely disappointing.

"The vulnerability of people with disability to the worst impacts of the virus has been recognised by the federal government in the past," she said.

"The move to not provide full protection for these members of the community is a let-down.

"Disability service providers are rightfully anxious the virus could needlessly take hold within our communities."

Ms Stace is urging governments to reconsider the decision, implement an effective education campaign to encourage vaccinations among disability workers, and improve access to the rollout.

Just one third of the disability workforce has received one vaccine dose and only 15 per cent are fully protected, despite being included in the highest priority group back in February.

There is hesitancy among some staff who have threatened to leave the industry if they are forced to get vaccinated.

But most disability workers are more than happy to receive their jabs, as long as the vaccines are easily available and paid leave is provided.

Kate MacRae from Able Australia said it was important to ensure the safety of people with disabilities.

"By mandating the vaccine for our support staff, we would be in the best position to do that," she said.

"Without the government mandating the vaccination for disability sector staff we can only encourage our staff to be vaccinated for the protection of our clients."

Ms MacRae estimates about one in five of her staff are vaccinated.

However, notification of vaccination is not compulsory, so the figure may not be accurate.

The proposed disability worker vaccine mandate follows a similar order imposed on aged care workers, who must receive at least one dose by mid-September to remain employed in the industry.

All states and territories except Victoria have agreed to change their public health orders to make vaccines compulsory for nursing home staff.

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