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NSW vax deadline looms as Victoria implements booster mandate

Optometry NSW/ACT has advised that all staff working in optometry practices in NSW – including support staff – must have received at least one dose by the end of this month, or face being locked out of their employment, while Victoria has gone a step further and issued a booster shot mandate.

The advice follows an updated public health order on 23 December that mandatory vaccination requirements will be extended to all primary care and other private sector health service providers across NSW.

Under the mandate, optometrists and all staff within the practice can only work after 31 January if they have received their first dose by that date, and their second dose by 28 February 2022.

NSW Health said these changes are consistent with requirements in other states and territories, including Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.

“NSW Health earlier [in 2021] introduced mandatory vaccination for its healthcare workers to help protect patients, visitors, other health staff and the wider community,” the state government department said.

“The revised Public Health Order will retain the existing coverage of NSW Health staff and staff in public and private hospitals. It will also extend vaccination requirements to health practitioners working in private and community settings, such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, speech pathologists, dieticians and naturopaths. It will also cover support staff working in these practices.”

Employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure workers comply with the order.

Workers will need to provide evidence of having received a COVID-19 vaccination if requested to do so by their employer. Employers will be able to request this information.

However, a stage 2 healthcare worker is exempt from the vaccination obligations if they either provide health services with no physical contact with members of the community being provided with the service; and provide that health service entirely from a place where there are no patients, clients and others accessing the healthcare onsite the premises.

An exemption is available for a worker if they are unable to be vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine available in NSW a due to a medical contraindication.

Optometry NSW/ACT members can direct queries to (02) 9712 2199 or sarah@oaansw.com.au.

Victoria & South Australia – booster dose mandate 

On 14 January, Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) updated its website and directed members a new public order regarding mandatory third doses. This related to allied health (including optometry), as well as administrative and ancillary roles.

The Victorian Government stated that all healthcare workers eligible to receive an additional COVID-19 vaccine by 12 January 2022 are required to receive a COVID-19 third dose vaccine by 12 February 2022.

Healthcare workers not yet eligible to receive an additional COVID-19 vaccine by 12 January 2022 are required to receive their COVID-19 third dose vaccine by 29 March 2022.

In effect, all optometrists and practice staff must receive their third dose by 29 March 2022 to work onsite.

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

In South Australia, from 29 January 2022, those working in healthcare settings – including optometrists – will be required to have a booster vaccination. All staff in healthcare settings must have had, or have evidence of a booking to have, a booster dose within four weeks of becoming eligible in accordance with ATAGI guidelines.

Other states and territories can find more information on the Optometry Australia COVID-19 webpage.

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