Mandatory Influenza (flu) vaccination program for residential aged care providers

Page last updated: 06 August 2018

Background

The 2017 influenza season was characterised by a higher than average level of influenza activity in the community. People aged 65 years and older accounted for more than 90% of all notified deaths related to flu.

As a result, the Government has been looking at ways to improve protection from seasonal influenza, particularly for the elderly. 

The Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Influenza Outbreaks in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia, developed by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), recommend that residential aged care facilities have an influenza vaccination policy for residents and staff and to ensure it is implemented each year. Influenza vaccination for staff both protects them and provides an additional layer of protection for high risk residents. The CDNA’s best practice targets are 95% vaccination coverage, in both staff and residents, prior to the beginning of the flu season.

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Quality Agency) undertook a nationwide survey of all residential aged care services to review infection control practices in 2017. The survey found that almost all residential aged care services have an infection control policy and vaccination program in place for staff and residents, however, only 3.5% of services met the CDNA’s best practice target of 95% vaccination coverage of their staff.

The Government is strengthening the existing regulatory framework to assist providers in aligning their influenza vaccination programs with the national guidelines. 

On 22 April 2018, the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, and the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP announced that Australian Government-subsidised approved providers of residential aged care would be required to have in place an annual flu vaccination program that offers a free flu vaccine to staff and volunteers. Providers are required to cover the cost of the program.

In April 2018, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) wrote to each provider emphasising the importance of seasonal flu vaccination and encouraging them to take appropriate steps to lift the vaccination rate amongst their staff and volunteers. The CMO’s letter enclosed educational factsheets and promotional posters to support awareness and uptake of flu vaccination.

Flu vaccination program requirements

From 1 May 2018, Australian Government-subsidised providers of residential aged care will be required to have in place a flu vaccination program that:

  • provides staff and volunteers of the service with access to a free flu vaccination on an annual basis. Vaccinations can be offered either:
    • directly, for example, with vaccinations provided on site; or 
    • indirectly, for example, making arrangements for staff to be able to access a vaccine at a local chemist or general practitioner.
  • actively promotes the benefits of an annual vaccination for their staff and volunteers, and for the health outcomes of care recipients.
  • keeps records of the number of staff that receive a flu vaccination each year (whether or not under the approved provider’s flu vaccination scheme).

These requirements can be found in the Quality of Care Principles 2014  and the Records Principles 2014.  

Compliance arrangements for the flu vaccination program

Under the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Quality of Care Principles 2014, Government subsidised providers of residential aged care are required to comply with the Accreditation Standards. The Standards require providers to have an effective infection control program in place. The Standards also require services to have systems in place to identify and ensure compliance with all relevant legislation and regulatory requirements.  

The Quality Agency assesses a provider’s compliance with the Accreditation Standards. Compliance with the flu vaccination program will be assessed by the Quality Agency through the Accreditation Standard’s expected outcomes on Infection Control and Regulatory Compliance. 

Residential aged care providers will also need to demonstrate how they have promoted and informed their staff and volunteers of the benefits of vaccination and the steps taken to encourage staff to receive a vaccination. It is also a requirement to maintain records related to their vaccination program, including the number of staff who have received the flu vaccination. Should a provider fail to meet an expected outcome the Quality Agency will notify the Department of Health who will then consider whether to take any regulatory action.

More information

If you have any enquiries about the flu vaccination program for residential aged care please contact the department at qualityagedcare@health.gov.au

If you have any further enquiries about the Accreditation Standards and the Quality Agency’s assessment process please visit the Quality Agency’s website.

More information is available about flu vaccination in residential aged care.