CANBERRA, AAP – Coronavirus vaccines could soon be mandatory for aged care and disability workers in a bid to lower the risk of nursing home deaths.
Scott Morrison, state premiers and territory chief ministers on Friday backed the idea at a national cabinet meeting.
“Make no mistake, we are leaning heavily into this as leaders of governments, and myself as prime minister, to see a move towards mandatory vaccination for aged care workers,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
Australia’s expert medical panel has been asked to detail how to make vaccines mandatory in aged care without putting the sector under strain.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said a balance would need to be struck on people deciding to leave the industry if vaccines were mandatory.
Professor Kelly encouraged all staff to receive voluntary jabs in the lead up to any decision on mandating vaccines.
“This extra protection is important,” he said.
Mr Morrison said governments wanted to know the best time frame for safely making vaccines mandatory for aged and disability care workers.
State public health orders would be used to mandate coronavirus jabs, similar to rules in place for flu vaccinations.
Western Australia has already used an order to ensure border workers are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Pfizer vaccines for all Australians over 40 will be available nationwide from Tuesday with the federal government matching several states.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 16 will gain immediate access to vaccines.
Lieutenant General John Frewen will lead the national COVID vaccination task force after the retirement of senior health official Carolyn Edwards.
Mr Morrison denied the appointment showed the program was in crisis, saying the “scale up” was needed as the nation moves into the busiest phase of its rollout.
“We’re taking the next step and we’re going to the next level,” he said.
Premiers and chief ministers also agreed on a funding arrangement for lockdowns with the federal government to pay for household support.
States and territories will pick up the tab for business help.
That will apply to a new scheme to offer affected workers up to $500 when shutdowns in virus hotspots last longer than one week.
With restrictions easing in regional Victoria on Friday, only workers in Melbourne will be eligible as the state’s capital enters another seven days of lockdown.
Federal Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, who represents the regional seat of Monash, is calling on the government to expand the scheme.
“Everybody gets wet when it rains, not just those in the eye of the storm,” he told ABC radio.
He believes his regional colleagues within government ranks will back widening the scope of payments.
Victoria on Friday recorded four new cases, taking the outbreak to 65 infections, with the total figure for the outbreak revised down a day earlier after two false positives.
The Morrison government has reached an agreement with Victoria to build a 500-bed quarantine centre to add capacity in the state’s hotels.