A Broken Hill aged care provider says about 10 per cent of her staff have indicated they will not get the COVID-19 vaccination, and she doubts more than half of the homes’ residents will.
The comments come as top-tier priority groups such as aged care facilities and quarantine workers have begun receiving the Pfizer vaccine this week.
Southern Cross Care Broken Hill chief executive Zoe Tonkin said the organisation was not part of the first rollout but that vaccines should arrive for the group’s homes in mid-March.
Ms Tonkin said although the vaccine was not compulsory for aged care workers, she was hoping as many staff and and residents as possible would be vaccinated.
However, some staff had already indicated they did not want the vaccine.
“We’ve just got just under 300 staff … across all areas of the organisation,” Ms Tonkin said.
“At this stage we’re probably looking at around 20 to 30 staff that have just said ‘no’ to date.
Ms Tonkin said aged care providers across the country were pushing for the vaccine to be made mandatory for staff.
Ms Tonkin said the aged care homes had been passing on important vaccine information to residents and their families, as well as to staff who had said “no” for non-medical related reasons.
“I understand the hesitation, worry and concern,” she said.
“If they then choose not to, then we’ll address that as the time goes on.”
‘It’s very, very safe’
Local pharmacy chain owner Jason Harvey recommended that all local aged care staff get vaccinated.
“Whether it should be compulsory I’m not 100 per cent sure because we do live in a free country and people have their own rights,” he said.
“I’ll definitely be advising our staff to get it when it becomes available.”
Mr Harvey said an average healthy person would not suffer any major side effects from the vaccine.
“You might have a sore arm for a couple of days. You might have some minor sniffles,” he said.
The latest update on which individuals should be withheld from receiving the vaccine, or be given special precautions, has been noted by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
The group’s clinical guidance on the use of COVID vaccines also notes what considerations need be made for groups such as immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women.