Businesses will soon be able to offer vaccinations in the workplace in the same way they offer flu jabs, the Department of Health has confirmed.
The so-called COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Partners Program is intended to add momentum to the vaccine rollout, by making it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated.
It is the result of much consultation with businesses and industry groups, including Business Council Australia (BCA), which has been pushing for such a scheme for some time.
“It’s a no-brainer,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“A workplace rollout is convenient for workers, takes advantage of the systems many employers already have in place, and crucially it expands access for all Australians by taking pressure off government sites and GPs, as supply ramps up,” she added.
“Every person we get vaccinated brings Australians one shot closer to getting on with their lives, so employers are ready to help get people protected as soon as possible.”
A statement from the Department of Health noted that the program allows Aussies to access the vaccine somewhere they are already going every day.
It reduces barriers, “while recognising the eagerness of businesses to help”, the statement said.
The plan is set to “kick-start” stage three of the National COVID Shield Campaign Plan, it added.
Here’s what we know so far.
How will it work?
The program will operate in a similar way to the flu jab scheme, whereby employers choose an accredited provider to provide vaccines in their workplace.
The provider will send nurses and other medical professionals to the business to vaccinate staff.
However, we don’t have much information yet on how businesses contact providers, or whether there are limits on the types of businesses that can offer vaccines.
The government will pay a fixed cost, per vaccine, to the providers. There will be no cost to the business or the employees.
Businesses cannot charge employees for getting their jabs on site.
When does the program start?
The COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Partners Program is expected to get underway from early October.
That gives providers time to seek and secure accreditation as a vaccine partner, through a government tender process.
More information on that tender process is expected to be available on the AusTender website soon.
Can my business take part?
There are no specific details available yet as to what kinds of businesses can take part in the program, or any limit on business size or employee numbers.
Pressure to launch such a scheme has come from banks, airlines, supermarkets and other businesses less able to operate remotely. However, it’s not clear whether such businesses will be given priority or not.
An article from the Australian Financial Review suggests that smaller businesses will be welcome to join the program, but again, we have no clear detail on this yet.
Which vaccines will be available?
For the most part, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be administered through the program. However, workplaces will be able to order AstraZeneca vaccines if required, for employees that may not be eligible for the others.
Can I require employees to be vaccinated?
As it stands, this program doesn’t change anything with regards to mandatory vaccinations.
Any mandate for staff to be vaccinated must be lawful and reasonable, and comply with employment contracts as well as anti-discrimination laws.
You can find more information on mandatory vaccinations in the workplace here.