The Prime Minister will lobby state and territory leaders to overrule medical experts’ advice and force aged care workers to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The national cabinet will discuss implementing a consistent approach to disaster payments and mandating vaccines for aged care workers when it meets on Friday.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has advised – for a second time – against making the coronavirus vaccine compulsory.
After recent outbreaks in facilities in Victoria, in which several aged-care workers and residents tested positive for COVID-19, Scott Morrison is keen to mandate the vaccine anyway.
A union representing Victoria’s aged care workforce, the Health Workers Union, has argued against the decision of the Prime Minister.
About 35,000 aged-care workers have received two vaccine doses and about 41,500 at least one.
There are about 366,000 aged care workers throughout Australia.
Union state secretary Diana Asmar said the HWU had strongly encouraged workers to get the jab but did not believe it should be compulsory.
“We live in a free country and not Communist China,” Ms Asmar said.
“[The government has not] advertised the vaccinations in a positive way, and if they had done so there wouldn’t be people so reluctant to have the vaccination.”
Governments in all states and territories were contacted by the ABC. Those who replied were split.
The ACT government is reluctant to mandate the vaccine for the aged-care workforce based on the current advice, arguing it is not required of any other worker.
A spokesman for NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the territory had already ensured “almost complete” vaccination of quarantine workers.
“We are considering whether this approach needs to be expanded to other areas of service delivery across government,” the spokesman said.
“We would support the federal government if it made it a condition of employment for aged care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 once the vaccination has been made available to them.”
A spokesman for Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said his state wanted all aged-care staff vaccinated.
“I welcome the discussion planned for tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting with the Commonwealth, other states and medical experts on the best way to achieve this,” the spokesman said.
Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said making the flu vaccine compulsory for aged-care workers in some states had led to better health outcomes for residents.
“The same principle applies as far as we’re concerned for COVID vaccination,” Mr Yates said.
“These are vulnerable people, very vulnerable people. It’s about a duty of care that people working with them should take every precaution.”