Q-Insights: Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination: If, when and how we'll manage
On Monday, 6 September NDS hosted a roundtable for Queensland disability service providers on the topic of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. We were keen to hear what providers were thinking and hearing in regard to essential workers potentially being required – either by the Commonwealth or Queensland Government mandate – to be vaccinated in order to deliver disability support services.
The large number of providers who registered and engaged in the session is in itself a good indication of the level of concern within the sector. Providers shared many views about the impact mandatory vaccination would have on their businesses, their staff, and the people they support.
During the session we heard providers’ concerns across a plethora of issues including:
- Vaccine hesitancy
Providers indicated there are several reasons staff and participants may be hesitant to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Most of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy mentioned in the roundtable discussion were at odds with Queensland Health advice. Further to this, providers reported that some participants are worried that they might catch the virus from vaccinated staff. Again, this does not align with government health advice. The impact of misinformation appears to already be having an effect on the sector. Potentially, the disability sector will need to develop different strategies and approaches to communicate and navigate this issue with different stakeholder groups.
- Impacts on workforce
Some existing employees have indicated they don’t want to be vaccinated and that they may leave the sector if required to do so. Some providers reported they’re aware that there are potential employees reluctant to commence working in the sector because they are concerned they will soon be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. At a time when providers in the sector are struggling to recruit and retain their workforce, providers expressed concern that mandating COVID-19 vaccination could potentially increase the difficulties they face.
- Operational challenges
Meeting staff and client expectations in a COVID environment is placing significant pressure on organisations. Keeping people safe and informed is difficult and other issues are causing concern for provider organisations including legislative regulations like those that relate to Fair Work, Privacy and Human Rights. Those present reinforced that, should it become mandatory for disability service staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19, there will be significant operational challenges. In order that staff have time to be vaccinated, and organisations have time to navigate the operational and workforce challenges mandatory vaccination will require, significant lead time ahead of a mandate will be critical.
- Change fatigue
Attendees recognised that the rapidly shifting environment and the constant stream of new and sometimes contradictory information around COVID-19 is difficult to keep up with, confusing and somewhat exhausting. Organisations and workers in the sector are fatigued.
To those that were able to attend, thank you for your insights and willingness to share with your sector colleagues. It certainly has helped NDS get a picture of the complex issues providers are facing and will inform our advocacy on behalf of the sector. If you’d like to share your thoughts on this topic, feel free to get in touch: submit enquiry/feedback