The Australian immunisation handbook identifies recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers.
Practices should offer and encourage all staff members to have:
- testing of protective immunity, whether natural or vaccine induced
- immunisations recommended by the current edition of the Australian immunisation handbook.
These services can be undertaken by the practice or the individual’s own GP. In the event of an outbreak of an infectious disease, it is important to consider the wellbeing of practice team members who are not immunised. For example, during a disease outbreak, you could suspend non-immunised team members or provide alternate working arrangements to reduce the likelihood of them contracting the infectious disease. This would also help prevent transmission of the infectious disease to patients who cannot be immunised for medical reasons.
The RACGP recommends regularly updating practice staff immunisation policies to ensure any new team members are aware of vaccination obligations and expectations during the recruitment process.
Visit the Australian immunisation handbook to read more on recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers.
State and territory Public Health Orders are in place mandating COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers, some of which include and some of which exclude GPs. Please check the local requirements in your area.
If practice team members are affected by these orders and decline to be vaccinated, they are not legally allowed to work at the premises. Each public health order outlines the process for exemptions.
If your practice wishes to implement vaccination requirements for team members despite being in a jurisdiction where it is not mandated by public health order, you must do so with consideration of the workplace laws outlined by your state or territory and advice from your Medical Defence Organisation. Factors that merit consideration include the risk an unvaccinated staff member poses to the practice, what their role involves, their level of contact with other team members and patients and their access to and willingness to practice infection prevention control and appropriate use of PPE when required.
Avant and Safe Work Australia provide useful information regarding situations where staff refuse vaccination, however, both webpages reiterate that these situations are often intricate, and that legal advice is always recommended. Practices should seek individual legal advice from their Medical Defence Organisation.