Vaccines may become mandatory for aged care workers
Australia may make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for aged care workers but not until plentiful supplies of the jabs are available.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said any decision would be taken at a national level but it was far too early to mandate the shots for nursing home staff, as flu jabs were last year, while the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is limited.
Queensland Health began vaccinating people with the Pfizer COVID-19 jab at the Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital started its COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday and Cairns Hospital will follow on Friday.
Speaking about the vaccination rollout on a hook-up of Queensland Council of Social Service stakeholders, Dr Young said a meeting of the country's chief health officers would provide advice to the Commonwealth about whether to mandate COVID-19 shots for aged care workers.
But she said: "It's important to recognise that there's no way we'll mandate it until there's enough vaccine out there.
"We're not going to mandate it and then people won't be able to get vaccinated. That's ridiculous."
Dr Young is a member of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which advises National Cabinet on COVID-19 issues.
She said her personal hope was that nursing home employees would be comfortable to receive the vaccine to protect themselves after being provided with information about it.
Aged care workers are among the 125,000 Queenslanders in the priority group to receive the vaccine during the first six weeks of the rollout.
The Federal Government is responsible for vaccinating residents and workers in nursing homes and disability care accommodation.
Dr Young urged Queenslanders to accept the first COVID-19 vaccine offered to them, stressing the two different versions approved in Australia - manufactured by Pfizer and AstraZeneca - were both effective in preventing severe illness and death.
"I certainly will be," she said.
The state's top doctor said drug companies were already working on tweaking the vaccines to protect against emerging new COVID-19 variants.
"We might need to have another rollout to deal with some of those variants," Dr Young said.
"They'll get approved much quicker."
But she said emerging data suggested people would not need to get a COVID vaccine annually as with the flu shot.
"We think that this vaccine will be effective for much longer," Dr Young said.
Queensland recorded no new cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on Wednesday.
Since the pandemic began, the state has had 1323 known cases of SARS-CoV-2. Seven remain active.
Originally published as Vaccines may become mandatory for aged care workers