An Australian aged care provider has learned that aiming for 95% influenza immunity by 2020 requires a collaborative approach as they strive to achieve community (or herd) immunity to support health ageing and wellbeing.
Understanding who is in the herd and working together to motive and enable annual influenza immunisation is the focus of this program, which has seen staff immunisation rates rise from under 40% in 2011 to 86% in 2017, compared with an industry average of 47%, and elder population immunisation rates increase to greater than 80%.
The program continues to evaluate the impact of a long-term, sustained and coordinated program with a shared community objective to prioritise influenza vaccination using a life course approach. Recognised strategies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice guidelines have been implemented.
Following a severe Australian influenza season in 2017, the political and health authority’s call for mandatory influenza vaccinations is growing, however, the research and legal environment is not yet aligned.
2018 presents a turning point for elder wellbeing and community immunity at the aged care home, with the introduction of a high dose trivalent vaccines for over 65s and an appetite to implement industrial approaches to achieve higher or mandatory health care worker vaccinations. The introduction of a collaborative and novel industrial relations approach excluding unvaccinated staff to motivate immunisation uptake and facilitate response if an outbreaks occurs.
The need for long-term research into the benefits of influenza vaccinations as part of a broader infection control program are well known, with most health organisations recommending influenza vaccinations for workers and care recipients, despite low-quality research, or conflicting evidence about the benefits.
The aged care home is working together with a tertiary partner to undertake long-term research into community immunity within residential aged care. The focus of this research program is to evaluate the combined impact of recognised strategies within and between the various populations within the care home, social barriers and facilitations to immunisation, and the impact of industrial relations instruments to exclude non-vaccinated workers.