The Vaccine: what's your role as a registered practitioner?
We’ve been battling COVID-19 for close to two years now, but with the availability of various vaccines in Australia increasing, the government is formulating a plan to help the country open back up again.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is dominating Australian news headlines at the moment – but with so much misinformation and uncertainty surrounding the program and the vaccine itself, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a practitioner when it comes to getting the COVID jab.
Here, we answer some of the most common questions from AACMA members about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for Australians?
One of the key things to note with all the available vaccines in Australia (AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna) is that you are not under legal obligation to receive the shot if you do not wish. “It is voluntary and a personal choice for all Australian citizens whether or not to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” shares AACMA president Waveny Holland.
As a healthcare worker, do I have to get vaccinated?
While the Federal Government cannot mandate vaccination for all Australians, there are some businesses, as well as state and territory governments, that may make vaccination a necessity for their employees and customers.
“For example, aged care workers, health workers in the public hospital system, and some airline staff have been instructed that they must receive the COVID-19 vaccination as a requirement of their employment,” explains Waveny.
Though Ahpra and the National Boards do strongly encourage all registered health practitioners and students to undergo a full COVID-19 vaccination course (unless unable due to medical reasons), it is currently not mandated. However, Ahpra does note that if you, as a healthcare practitioner, opt not to receive the vaccine, you must inform your employer and/or colleagues as soon as possible of this decision.
What happens if I refuse to get vaccinated?
Some practitioners may have personal reasons for choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, however Ahpra states that all health practitioners need to comply with their local employer, health service or health department policies, procedures and guidelines as they relate to COVID-19 vaccinations.
Refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 isn’t cause for regulatory action itself, reports Ahpra. But if concerns or complaints are raised with Ahpra and the National Boards, they will need to assess those situations on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about your own personal circumstances, it’s best to speak directly with your employer, health service, or state/territory health department for more information.
What should I tell my patients about the COVID-19 vaccine?
“All practitioners from the 16 registered health professions must provide accurate, proven information to their patients and not opinions regarding the vaccinations and their rollout,” shares Waveny. “This directive is from all the professional boards and Ahpra.”
Practitioners who do not comply could face disciplinary action from Ahpra if a complaint is made against them for not upholding the recommended government public-health guidelines and directives.
As a professional association, AACMA does not have any authority to issue these directives and cannot make vaccination compulsory for members.