‘UNDERSTAND THE REALITY’: Backlash over new vaccine requirement

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been lambasted by the union for aged care workers which says his plan to enforce vaccines on workers is only going to further damage a struggling industry.

Amid a surge in local cases of the highly-infectious Delta Covid-19 variant across Australia, Mr Morrison announced on Monday evening vaccines would be mandatory for aged care workers to safeguard the vulnerable.

"This is not something any government should do lightly... we have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice," he said via video link from isolation.

An $11 million package will be made available to the sector to ensure facilities can provide paid leave to staff to be vaccinated.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks on as he answers the press at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised by the Health Services Union. Source: AFP via Getty

But the Health Services Union said it was not enough security for workers and poses serious risk to the industry.

The aged care industry has come under intense scrutiny in recent years over its standards and stretched resources. The pandemic has been particularly difficult for aged care due to the large numbers of infections within aged care facilities which as led to more than 70 per cent of Australia's Covid deaths arising in aged care.

“Rather than barking orders the Commonwealth needs to understand the reality of aged care,” HSU national president Gerard Hayes said.

“This is a workforce of insecure, underemployed women who often stitch together several casual jobs to make a living.

"They are leaving in droves. Workers, including casuals, need an ironclad right to paid leave to get vaccinated and recover."

'Bumbling government blaming aged care workers'

Mr Hayes said the industry was now set to suffer as a result of the federal government's botched vaccine rollout which lacked urgency earlier in the year as the virus was largely kept out of the Australian community.

“The federal Government has bungled the rollout, dragged its heels and allowed misinformation to fester. Now it wants to blame aged care workers for not being vaccinated. That takes quite a hide," Mr Hayes said.

An aged care worker supports an elderly man on crutches.
Aged care workers must receive the vaccine by mid-September. Source: Getty, file

“Scott Morrison and (Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services) Richard Colbeck simply do not understand this workforce and they haven’t tried. This edict will worsen the attraction and retention crisis in aged care.”

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Mr Morrison's office regarding Mr Hayes' remarks.

AstraZeneca available to all ages

Aged care workers must receive their first jab by mid-September, but Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly called on employees to come forward earlier.

"The point is if people are working in that sector, they should get vaccinated as quickly as possible, not to wait until mid-September when it becomes mandatory," he said.

During Monday's post-National Cabinet press conference, Mr Morrison also confirmed the AstraZeneca jab will be made available to all age groups in a bid to ramp up dwindling vaccination rates.

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