Department of Health

Vaccination for healthcare workers

Key messages

  • Healthcare workers are at increased risk of exposure to and transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Vaccination requirements and recommendations for healthcare workers are determined by their risk of exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases at work.
  • Influenza vaccination is required annually by 15 August for certain healthcare workers
  • COVID-19 vaccination is also required for certain healthcare workers. 

Because of their occupation, healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to, acquire and transmit vaccine-preventable diseases such as COVID-19, influenza, measles, rubella and pertussis.

To protect the health and safety of patients and other healthcare workers, and to maintain immunity in the healthcare worker population, vaccination for certain diseases is highly recommended for all healthcare workers.

Certain vaccines are now required for some healthcare workers, and recommended for other workers, depending on the likelihood of their contact with certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Work activities, rather than job title, have been considered to ensure each healthcare worker has the right level of protection.

Legislation

On 25 March 2020, the Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Act 2020 came into effect.

The amendment inserted sections into the Health Services Act 1988 and Ambulance Services Act 1986 that enable the Secretary of the Department of Health to direct health and ambulance services to require vaccination against selected vaccine-preventable diseases to better protect Victorians and create a safer healthcare system. Secretary Directions are issued when a vaccine is required for certain healthcare workers.

The Mental Health Act 2014 allows the Minister for Mental Health to issue a written direction on any matter that the Minister is satisfied is necessary, including requiring vaccinations for healthcare workers. Ministerial Directions are issued when a vaccine is required for Forensicare employees.

Implementation

Vaccination requirements apply in:

  • public health services
  • public hospitals
  • denominational hospitals
  • private hospitals and day procedure centres
  • ambulance services 
  • patient transport services that are engaged or engaged by a health service or Ambulance Victoria
  • residential aged care services operated by public health services
  • Forensicare (via Ministerial Directions, influenza only).

Definitions of the above settings can be found within the Health Services Act 1988, Ambulance Services Act 1986 and Mental Health Act 2014

Healthcare settings where vaccination requirements apply should develop a comprehensive immunisation policy for all healthcare workers, and workers should be assessed for their specific vaccine requirements, taking possible contraindications or exemptions into account.

Vaccination policies should include (at a minimum) the requirements of any relevant Secretary or Ministerial Directions that are in place, and relevant to their setting.

Work practices should also include the use of standard and additional infection control precautions to minimise exposure to infectious diseases.

Healthcare workers can be triaged into risk Category A, B and C according to the table below. 

Category A

Healthcare workers whose role requires them to have direct physical contact with patients, clients, deceased persons or body parts, blood, body substances, infectious material, or surfaces

Category B

Healthcare workers whose role rarely requires them to have direct physical contact with patients, clients, deceased persons or body parts, blood, body substances, infectious material or surfaces or equipment that might contain these.   

Category C

Healthcare workers whose role does not require them to have direct physical contact with patients, clients, deceased persons or body parts, blood, body substances, infectious

material or surfaces or equipment that might contain these.     

Healthcare settings that are not subject to the Department of Health’s vaccination requirements may choose to require COVID-19 vaccination for their workers at their own discretion. Workers should discuss their workplace’s vaccination policy with their employer in this instance. 

Some examples of settings where vaccination requirements do not apply under Secretary Directions (noting workers may still be subject to their employer’s vaccination policy) are general practices, community pharmacies and private allied health clinics, unless they are operated by one of the settings listed above. 

Vaccination of healthcare workers for seasonal influenza

Secretary Directions requiring influenza vaccination were issued on 8 April 2022. Ministerial Directions requiring influenza vaccination were additionally issued on 6 June 2022, that apply to Forensicare employees only.

The influenza vaccination requirement applies in:

  • public health services
  • public hospitals
  • denominational hospitals
  • private hospitals and day procedure centres
  • ambulance services 
  • patient transport services that are engaged or engaged by a health service or Ambulance Victoria
  • residential aged care services operated by public health services
  • Forensicare (via Ministerial Directions).

Under these Directions, Category A and B healthcare workers in the settings listed above are required to be vaccinated for seasonal influenza by 15 August 2022 (and annually thereafter). This means healthcare workers and their patients are protected each year in time for the influenza season.

The influenza vaccine was prioritised because:

  • there was a potential public health risk with the reintroduction of influenza infection in 2022 after little to no disease in circulation due to closed borders over the last two years
  • there was a decline in influenza vaccination in 2021. 

People with a medical contraindication to the influenza vaccine must show evidence of this to their employer, and are exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated. 

Secretary Directions and policy guidance

Vaccination requirements for healthcare workers policy guidance

Vaccination of healthcare workers for COVID-19

We will be living with COVID for some time, which is why we’re continuing COVID vaccination requirements for some healthcare workers in prescribed settings via Secretary Directions.

Secretary Directions requiring COVID-19 vaccination were issued on 13 October 2022

The COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies in:

  • public health services
  • public hospitals
  • denominational hospitals
  • private hospitals and day procedure centres
  • ambulance services 
  • patient transport services that are engaged or engaged by a health service or Ambulance Victoria
  • residential aged care services operated by public health services

From 13 October 2022, Category A, B and C healthcare workers in the settings listed above are required to be fully vaccinated if they are under 18 years old, or fully vaccinated (boosted) if they are 18 years old or older, unless an exception applies.

For most workers in the settings named above, this means the three-dose vaccine requirement remains.

These Directions have been enacted to minimise disruption to the healthcare system, and continue current vaccination requirements.

A person is fully vaccinated if the person has received: 

  • one dose of a one dose COVID-19 vaccine; or 
  • two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine including two different types of two dose COVID-19 vaccines. 

A person is fully vaccinated (boosted) if the person has received a booster dose. A person has received a booster dose if they have received:

  • a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine after receiving one dose of a one dose COVID-19 vaccine; or 
  • a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine after receiving two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine including different types of two dose COVID-19 vaccines. 

People with a medical contraindication to or temporary medical exemption for all available COVID-19 vaccines must show evidence of this to their employer, and are excepted from the vaccination requirement. A small number of other exceptions apply, which can be found in the policy guidance document below.

Secretary Directions and policy guidance

Vaccination requirements for healthcare workers policy guidance

More information

For further information about vaccination requirements for healthcare workers contact the Immunisation Unit at immunisation@health.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 08 November 2022

Health.vic

Contact details

Opening hours:  9am to 5pm Monday to Friday

Immunisation Unit Department of Health

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