An interview on The Sunday Project suddenly turned sour after debate emerged about whether it’s even possible to make vaccinations mandatory for aged care workers when the rollout has been so chaotic thus far.
Aged care workers have been in the spotlight after two of them tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria’s recent outbreak. It then emerged that the government didn’t even know exactly how many aged care workers had been vaccinated.
“When the rollout continues to fail and falter, the government will turn around and say ‘Oh, well workers didn’t do what they were supposed to do,’ and we’re extremely concerned about that,” Annie Butler, Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation, told the program.
But the interview turned a bit tense when the subject turned to mandatory vaccination.
Co-host Lisa Wilkinson asked whether the ANMF wants vaccinations to be mandatory for all aged care workers to stop the potential spread of COVID-19 inside nursing homes.
“We can really understand why people are asking that question, and it’s a question that we need to continue to ask and to examine,” Butler replied.
“But right now, we can’t mandate something that isn’t readily available and accessible.”
Butler said she wants to see aged care workers vaccinated, but that the chaotic rollout means this won’t happen overnight.
Co-host Tommy Little hit back: “Annie, I’ll tell you what, after saying the government’s communication has been a bit confusing, I reckon yours is pretty confusing too.”
Annie asked why he felt this way.
“I think when you’re asked should the vaccine be mandatory and you answer by saying, ‘I think we should continue to ask that question,’ don’t you find that a confusing answer?” Little said.
Butler said that she’s not being vague, just realistic.
“Until we have all the other systems in place, we just can’t make it mandatory for aged care workers,” she said.
Outside of an aged care worker vaccination blitz by the Victorian state government, many workers around Australia still don’t know if they’ll be getting the jab at work, at a megaclinic or at their GP.
The ANMF is now calling on the federal government to give aged care workers paid time off so that they can go out and get vaccinated, and stay home for a day or so if they experience any of the usual side-effects such as a fever.
At the end of the day, but Butler and Little clearly want to see aged care workers – and everyone else – vaccinated as soon as possible. Yet with the way the rollout’s been going, arguments like this on on The Sunday Project seem inevitable.