Mandatory Vaccination FAQs

Healthcare workers already required to be fully vaccinated must receive a third dose of the COVID vaccine to be permitted to continue to work onsite. Staff will receive a reminder email on the day they become eligible to receive their third dose.

Healthcare workers who were eligible to receive their COVID vaccination booster by 12 January 2022 must receive their third dose by 12 February 2022.

Healthcare workers who become eligible to receive their COVID vaccination booster after 12 January 2022 must receive their third dose by 29 March 2022.

The mandatory vaccination requirement does not apply to healthcare workers who have a valid medical exemption.

Third dose options

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available as a single booster dose, irrespective of the COVID-19 vaccine that was initially received. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also available for use as a booster dose for anyone who has had significant adverse reactions after a previous Pfizer or Moderna vaccination dose.

Recording of third dose administered elsewhere

Staff who receive their third dose at a location other that a Western Health vaccination site must send their Immunisation History Statement from Medicare Online to COVIDVaccination@wh.org.au. For further information on how to locate you evidence of vaccination please visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Evidence QRG.

Please do not send your COVID vaccination certificate as evidence – this currently does not show details of third dose and therefore is not adequate evidence.

Please Note: Submitted Immunisation History Statements may take at least a week to be updated and accurately reflected in MaP.

Evidence of second dose

We will have evidence of dose dates for all vaccinations administered to staff in a state-run vaccination centre.

Staff who received their second dose at their General Practitioner or pharmacy must provide evidence of the date of the second vaccination dose via MyGov or a Medicare Vaccination Record.

Information for Managers

Has the Victorian Government issued a direction on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination boosters for healthcare workers?

As of 12 January 2022, healthcare workers in Victoria must get their COVID-19 booster vaccination and provide evidence to their employer.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley issued the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order (No. 2) which imposed Pandemic Order obligations upon operators of healthcare facilities in relation to the vaccination of workers, in order to limit the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (COVID-19) within the population in these settings.

 

What does this mean for me as a healthcare worker?

The Pandemic Order requires healthcare workers who were eligible to receive their COVID vaccination booster by 12 January 2022 to receive their third dose by 12 February 2022. Healthcare workers who become eligible to receive their COVID vaccination booster after 12 January 2022 must receive their third dose by 29 March 2022.

The mandatory vaccination requirement does not apply to healthcare workers who have a valid medical exemption.

It is really important that we have accurate and up to date records of our staff that have been vaccinated. If you have been vaccinated at a location other that a Western Health vaccination site please email COVIDVaccination@wh.org.au  your Immunisation History Statement from Medicare Online, your name (as it appears on your pay slip) and your employee number. Please do not send your COVID vaccination certificate as evidence, as this currently does not show details of third dose and therefore is not adequate evidence.
If we do not have updated COVID Vaccination records for you, the Pandemic Order requires Western Health to treat you as if you are unvaccinated.

How do I provide evidence that I have received my third dose?

Western Health will have evidence of dose dates for all vaccinations administered at a Western Health vaccination centre. No action is required by employees who received their third dose at a Western Health operated site.

Staff who receive their third dose elsewhere must email COVIDVaccination@wh.org.au with their:

  • Immunisation History Statement from Medicare Online.
  • Name (as it appears on their pay slip) and their employee number.

Please note that your COVID vaccination certificate does not currently show details of third dose and therefore is not adequate evidence. Please do not send this as evidence.

I have recently had COVID-19, am I exempt from getting my third dose?

Whilst you may have an exemption of up to 4 months after having COVID disease, the latest clinical advice is that people can safely receive a dose of a COVID vaccine after all of their symptoms have subsided and they are well. Western Health strongly encourages our staff to get your third dose as soon as you are able, to ensure that you are fully protected against all COVID variants.

Staff can no longer use a medical certificate as evidence of COVID-19 vaccination exemption. A doctor will need to update your record on the Australian Immunisation Register to show that you have a medical exemption. Once this has been processed it will appear on your COVID-19 digital certificate. The duration of the medical exemption will be listed on the COVID-19 digital certificate.

Will I need to get my booster in order to continue working?

The Pandemic Order requires all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including their booster or have a valid medical exemption to be able to continue working.

The Pandemic Order requires that employers take all reasonable steps to ensure that unvaccinated workers or those that have not given evidence of vaccination or an exemption, do not enter or remain on their premises for the purposes of working.

Am I considered a healthcare worker?

Yes, the definition of healthcare worker in the Pandemic Order includes all people, irrespective of role, that works within healthcare. This includes all clinical and non-clinical roles.

At Western Health it means a person who is employed or engaged as a contractor (including agency and locum staff) by the health service to perform work at any of our facilities.

It also includes any retail and other business operating within a healthcare setting, including cafes, pharmacies, newsagents and florists.

Will students and volunteers also need to be vaccinated?

Yes, volunteers engaged by the health service will need to be vaccinated to be able to undertake duties on a health service facility.

Students on placement will also need to be vaccinated to be able to be able to attend a health service.

I am currently on leave, will I need to get vaccinated?

Yes, all employees on any form of leave (paid or unpaid) will not be permitted to return to work until they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. From 29 March 2022 this includes three doses.

The mandatory vaccination requirement does not apply to healthcare workers who have a valid medical exemption.

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

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.
You may receive a medical exemption if you are unable to be vaccinated because you:
  • have a medical contraindication to all COVID-19 vaccines available for use in Australia, or
  • have an acute medical condition such as undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness, including COVID-19 infection where vaccination can be deferred for up to 4 months after the infection (or earlier if the medical practitioner specifies an earlier date).
Please follow this link to view what Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) defines as a medical contraindication to the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Whilst you may have an exemption of up to 4 months after having COVID disease, the latest clinical advice is that people can safely receive a dose of a COVID vaccine after all of their symptoms have subsided and they are well. Western Health strongly encourages our staff to get your third dose as soon as you are able, to ensure that you are fully protected against all COVID variants.
If you are seeking a temporary medical exemption, your doctor will need to update your record on the Australian Immunisation Register to show that you have a medical exemption. Under the current Pandemic Order you can no longer use a medical certificate or letter as evidence of COVID-19 vaccination exemption. Once the your exemption has been processed, you can download your COVID-19 digital certificate which will show the duration of the medical exemption.
You then need to provide a copy of the COVID-19 digital certificate to your manager, who will arrange for Western Health’s systems to be updated.

What if I am pregnant and don’t want to be vaccinated whilst pregnant?

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.

•      https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/08/covid-19-vaccination-shareddecision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregnancy-covid-19vaccination-shared-decision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planningpregna_0.pdf

•      https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/08/covid-19-vaccination-pregnancybreastfeeding-and-covid-19 -vaccines-pregnancy-breastfeeding-and-covid-19-vaccines.pdf

 

If you are pregnant and choose not to be vaccinated, we will review whether you can work from home. Where this is not possible, we will support you to commence parental leave early.

What if I can’t get an appointment in time?

Western Health staff can access priority vaccination appointments. Simply visit any one of our four vaccination hubs (or occasional pop-up clinics at Bacchus Marsh, Footscray or Williamstown Hospitals) with your ID badge for a ‘walk-in’ appointment. We will prioritise staff but wait times may still apply.

All Western Health employees are 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.

Which vaccine will I receive?

The vast majority of people will receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines as their COVID-19 vaccination booster.

All three vaccines have been approved as safe and effective by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. Before COVID-19 vaccines are used in Australia, they must pass strict safety standards.

The COVID-19 vaccines being used in Australia have been used by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

For more information, visit the About the COVID-19 vaccine page.

Is the vaccine effective?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is very effective at preventing infection, serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19.

For more information, visit the About the COVID-19 vaccine page.

Will there be penalties if these requirements are not followed?

The Pandemic Order includes penalties for employers that do not comply with the requirements. It is a legal requirement and Western Health will comply with this legislation and will need to provide evidence of our compliance.

As an employer, Western Health could incur penalties of up to $109,044 for failing to comply.

Will there be penalties for individuals that do not comply with the requirements?

There are penalties that apply for a person who provides false or misleading information.

If an individual refuses their employer’s requests to provide evidence of vaccination or a valid exemption, the individual won’t be subject to a penalty. However, the employer must not allow that individual to enter the facility for the purpose of working. Depending on their role, this may mean that the individual cannot work.

What will Western Health do if I don’t meet the requirements?

Western Health complies with all legal obligations required of us.

Western 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.

Western Health is required by the Pandemic Order to ensure that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster. As a result, Western Health is giving employees a lawful and reasonable direction to be vaccinated by the above dates.

Western Health will follow a process that will investigate each case individually to understand the circumstances. Liaison and communication will occur with the affected employees to ensure that there is clarity on the process as this progresses.

Western Health is currently seeking advice on the detail of what this process will include, and will update this guidance once this is finalised.

Can I work from home if I am not vaccinated?

Whilst some Western Health staff are working from home at the moment, no Western Health staff work from home indefinitely. At any point in time the health service may require a staff member that is working from home to recommence working at one of our sites.

Therefore working from home is not a valid exemption to the Pandemic Order at Western Health.

Will it be mandatory for visitors to be vaccinated?

Visitors attending hospitals and aged care facilities were introduced in January 2022. Western Health is continuing to apply visitor restrictions to minimise the spread of COVID-19 to patients and staff.
All visitors entering Western Health are required to show evidence of having received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on entry. Visitors will also be asked about their vaccination status when they complete the Visitor Attestation.
Visitors who have not received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be required to test negative on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) at the point of entry to the hospital and wear an N95 mask for the duration of their visit.
Visitors who test positive on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) will not be granted entry unless eligible for a special exemption. The exemption categories for allowing visitors and the process for wards to request exemptions remain unchanged and can be found here.

Are there exceptional circumstances where unvaccinated healthcare workers are able to work?

The Pandemic Order does provide for some exceptional circumstances where an unvaccinated healthcare worker may be able to be engaged. These exceptions circumstances include:

  • a worker is required to perform work or duties at the facility that is or are necessary to provide for urgent specialist clinical or medical care due to an emergency situation or a critical unforeseen circumstance;
  • a worker is required to fill a vacancy to provide urgent care, to maintain quality of care and/or continue essential operations at the facility due to an emergency situation or a critical unforeseen circumstance;
  • a worker is required to attend the facility to respond to an emergency at the facility; or
  • a worker is required to perform urgent and essential work at the facility to protect the health and safety of workers or members of the public, or to protect assets and infrastructure.

Examples of these exception circumstances include the health service having a large number of workers furloughed due to exposure at a Tier 1 site, or a medical practitioner being required to attend Western Health on short notice due to an emergency situation.

If these exceptional circumstances are required to be used, then Western Health must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the unvaccinated worker only remains upon our site for the period of time necessary to respond to the exceptional circumstance, and wears PPE that includes at a minimum a surgical mask and face shield whilst on our site.

What impact does mandatory vaccination have on the recruitment process for new staff?

All new staff starting employment at Western Health are already being required to provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination has part of their pre-commencement employment screening.

Why can't daily rapid antigen testing be employed instead of mandatory vaccination?

Rapid antigen testing is utilised at Western Health and is part of a number of tools being used to enhance the early detection of COVID – however this does not change Western Health’s obligations to comply with the Pandemic Order that was issued by the Minister for Health.