Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The following frequently asked questions are provided for manadatory vacciantion at Eastern Health 

Why is mandatory Covid-19 vaccination being introduced?

Following a recommendation from the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) to National Cabinet, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that healthcare workers would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue to work.

On 30 September 2021 the Acting Chief Health Officer Professor Benjamin Cowie issued a Public Health Order requiring that all healthcare operators must take all reasonable steps to ensure that its workers are vaccinated.

This is part of the Victorian Government’s roadmap to protect the healthcare system and our community, and to ensure Victorians have timely access to the healthcare they need. 

Eastern Health is also required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to implement ‘all reasonably practical control measures’ to ensure the health and safety of our employees. Vaccination is an important control measure to increase our ability to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission and reduce the detrimental health impact for our people.

When will vaccination become mandatory?

By 15 October 2021 all Eastern Health employees will need to:

  • Have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination; or
  • Have proof of a COVID-19 vaccination booking by 29 October 2021.

Where an employee is unvaccinated by 15 October 2021 but has proof of a COVID-19 vaccination booking by 29 October 2021, they may continue to work but only where they are wearing appropriate PPE that includes at a minimum a surgical mask and face shield.

By 29 October 2021 all employees will need to:

  • Have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination; and
  • Have proof of a second COVID-19 vaccination booking by 15 December 2021;

By 15 December 2021 all employees will need to have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccination.

 

To clarify mandatory obligations also apply to:

  • Volunteers
  • Students undertaking placement at Eastern Health
  • Contractors and their employees
  • Even if you are working from home, over the coming weeks or months, you may be required to be onsite, albeit in a brief capacity.  As such, you are included in the above target dates for vaccination.

 

How can I get my COVID-19 vaccination?

All healthcare workers, irrespective of age, are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and Eastern Health staff can make a booking via the COVID-19 staff vaccination clinic on 8396 8292.

 

What if I have some specific questions about receiving the COVID-19 vaccination?

For those who are hesitant to receive their vaccination, and would like more information, please speak to your own GP.

 

Where can I access some additional support services?

If you would like to access free and confidential support services, please call our Employee Assistance Program on 1300 687 327.

 

Does Mandatory vaccination apply to all Eastern Health employees?

Yes, mandatory vaccination will apply to all Eastern Health staff, contractors, volunteers and students working at any of our various sites (including those currently working at home), unless a medical exemption applies.

I have a medical condition. Can I get an exemption?

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and free. For the vast majority of people at least one of the vaccines will be suitable. It is extremely rare that an individual will experience contraindications for all vaccines. We encourage you to speak to your medical practitioner to seek expert advice from the Victorian Specialist Immunisation Services (VicSIS) to identify which vaccination is most suitable for you.

https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/the-vicsis-victorian-specialist-immunisation-services-network/

You may be exempt if you are unable to be vaccinated because you have a medical contraindication as determined by ATAGI clinical guidance.

Medical exemption grounds for the COVID-19 vaccination are limited. The following are current contraindications published by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on immunisation (ATAGI), that if experienced, should be referred to VicSIS:

AstraZeneca vaccine:

  • anaphylaxis after a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine, including polysorbate 80
  • history of capillary leak syndrome
  • thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia occurring after the first dose
  • other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose that has been reported to a state adverse event reporting program and/or TGA and a determination made by a relevant specialist that a repeat dose would be associated with a risk of recurrence of the serious adverse event.

Pfizer or Moderna vaccine:

  • anaphylaxis after a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine, including polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • myocarditis and/or pericarditis attributed to a previous dose of either of these vaccines or
  • other serious adverse events attributed to the first dose that has been reported to a state adverse event reporting program and/or TGA and a determination made by a relevant specialist that a repeat dose would be associated with a risk of recurrence of the serious adverse event.

You will need evidence from a medical practitioner about this – such as a medical certificate or a letter.

The employer must sight and record evidence from one of the following authorised medical practitioners:

  • general practice registrars on an approved 3GA training placement
  • public health physicians
  • general physicians
  • infectious disease physicians
  • clinical immunologists
  • gynaecologist
  • obstetrician
  • GPs who are vocationally registered
  • GPs who is a fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • GP who is a fellow of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine

 

What if I choose not to be vaccinated and I do not have a medical exemption?

Eastern Health is required by the Public Health Order to ensure that all employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 by 15 October 2021 or have evidence they have booked to receive their first vaccination by 29 October 2021.

If you choose not to be vaccinated, you will not be able to continue working at Eastern Health.

You will be stood down with pay until such time that Eastern Health is able to meet with you to review what this means for your ongoing employment at Eastern Health.

 

Does Eastern Health already have my vaccination status?

  • If you have received your COVID-19 Vaccination at any Eastern Health site, and we are readily able to identify that record we will use the data captured to verify your vaccine status. If you do not want this to be the case, please email COVIDVaxStatus@easternhealth.org.au. You will then be required to provide evidence via the updated attestation before 15 October 2021.
  • The vaccination records of some staff may have been incorrectly entered, may have a different name in the Eastern Health system, or may have occurred at a different location.

What action do I need to take to update Eastern Health about my vaccination status?

  • If already vaxed and you have not received any communication asking you to complete the attestation – you don’t need to do
  • If already vaxed but we don’t have your data – you will receive an SMS and direct email, asking for you to complete the updated Attestation form and provide proof.
  • If not vaxed – book appointment (all healthcare workers, irrespective of age, are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine book on 8396 8292), or respond to the updated Attestation form with evidence of medical contraindication or proof of upcoming appointment.

 

 

 

 

How do I show evidence of my vaccination?

  • Evidence of your vaccination can include your Immunisation History Statement, or digital certificate, or a letter from a GP. In the period before your immunisation history is updated, evidence of vaccination can include a recent booking confirmation email, or the card received at the time of vaccination.

What happens if I don’t meet these requirements?

If you can’t provide evidence that you meet the vaccination requirements which are outlined above, then we cannot allow you to enter san Eastern Health site to work. If you are unable to attend work, this may affect your employment.

If you are not able to meet the obligations for vaccination, appointment or exemption, we will meet with you to discuss what this means for your ongoing employment. 

It is important to note mandatory vaccination applies to a number of industries, and many employers are also implementing mandatory vaccination in their workplaces.

Where can I find out more information?

COVID-19 latest information can be found at

https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/covid-19-vaccinations-workplaces

Information for workers required to be vaccinated | Coronavirus Victoria

What if I don’t have a Medicare card?

You do not need a Medicare card to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Can an unvaccinated healthcare worker work in an emergency?

In an emergency situation, Eastern Health may decide to approve temporary exceptions:

  • for a worker whose work or duties at the healthcare setting are necessary to provide urgent specialist clinical or medical care due to an emergency or critical unforeseen circumstance (e.g. organ donation or retrieval), or 
  • for a worker that is deployed to fill vacancies to provide urgent care, maintain the quality of care for patients or  ensure the continued essential operations of the healthcare service due to an emergency or critical unforeseen circumstance (e.g. mass furlough following an outbreak), or 
  • for a worker who is required to respond to an emergency at the healthcare setting  

If a temporary exception is granted, there will be specific and very clear instructions and requirements regarding that exemption. These will include the requirement to wear, at a minimum, a surgical mask and face shield at all times that they are present at the work premises. Noting that Health Service PPE guidance may be more stringent depending on the area or type of work undertaken.

Any exemption will be temporary in nature and only considered if urgent or unforeseen circumstance arise.

Is it mandatory for visitors to a healthcare setting or residential aged care centre to be vaccinated?

Vaccination is strongly encouraged for anyone entering a healthcare setting or a residential aged care facility, but it is currently not required.

What happens if I do not want to be vaccinated?

From 15 October 2021, in order to work at an Eastern Health site, you must be able to provide evidence that you:

  • are fully vaccinated with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • have received your first dose and have a booking to receive your second dose by 15 December 2021, or
  • haven’t received any doses but have a booking to receive your first dose by 29 October 2021 (in which case you will need to wear PPE, including a the very minimum a surgical mask and face shield), or
  • have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner

I am pregnant or planning pregnancy.  What should I do?

If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, you are encouraged to discuss vaccination and timing of vaccination with your health practitioner. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and ATAGI released a joint statement recommending that pregnant women be routinely offered the Pfizer vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. 

If you are trying to become pregnant, the guidance states that you do not need to delay vaccination or avoid becoming pregnant after vaccination. See resource links below.

 

If I am currently working from home, will I have to be vaccinated?

Yes, all employees will need to be vaccinated to continue working at Eastern Health, unless an exemption applies. Even where an employee is currently working from home (or could work from home), as they may be required to attend or asked to return to a site at any time.

If I am currently on leave, will I have to be vaccinated?

Yes, all employees on any form of leave (paid or unpaid) will be required to show proof they are:

  • Partially vaccinated with one dose of COVID-19 vaccination if they are returning to work on or after 15 October 2021 (or 29 October 2021 if they have evidence of a COVID-19 vaccination booking before 29 October 2021 and wear a surgical mask and face shield until they receive their first vaccination); or
  • Fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccination if they are returning to work after 15 December 2021 including those currently absent on maternity leave or long term personal leave

What leave is provided for me to attend a vaccination booking?

As all employees of Eastern Health are required to be vaccinated because of a public health order (including casual employees employed on a regular and systematic basis with an expectation of ongoing casual employment), you will be eligible for time off without loss of pay to travel to and from a vaccination centre (if the centre is not at your usual place of work) to be vaccinated.

Prior approval from your manager is required where you need paid time off to attend a vaccination appointment. You should return to work as soon as possible after receiving the vaccination unless you suffer an adverse event after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

If it is not practical or possible to receive the vaccination during work time, you may be eligible to receive up to four hours pay on a case-by-case basis. 

What leave is available if I have an adverse event after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination?

You can access a maximum of 2 days paid special leave if you experience an adverse reaction following each vaccination that results in you being unfit for work and unable to attend work (a total for four days)

Will my job be impacted if I have a medical exemption from vaccination?

If you have a medical exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccination following the medical review process, redeployment or other adjustments will be considered based on a risk assessment.