The flu vaccine could be made compulsory for all aged care workers after a spate of elderly nursing home residents died from the illness, the federal health minister Greg Hunt has said.
Six residents of a Tasmanian nursing home died last month and seven at a Victorian aged care home died in the two weeks up to Wednesday.
Hunt has asked the chief medical officer to investigate ways to ensure all aged care workers are properly vaccinated.
A flu outbreak in Victoria killed seven people aged between 70 to 94 at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta between 16 and 30 August, the Victorian chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said on Friday.
“We are at the peak of one of the worst flu seasons ever and the elderly are one of highest-risk groups,” he said.
A dozen residents are still ill at the centre and one remains in a critical condition.
In Tasmania, Uniting Agewell confirmed six residents died because of an influenza outbreak at the Strathdevon aged care facility at Latrobe between 9 and 16 August.
“It has been the worst flu season witnessed across Australia and a very difficult time for people in aged care,” acting chief executive Graeme Barnes said in a statement.
Barnes said the facility was cleared of the illness on 30 August.
Advocacy group the Immunisation Coalition has called for mandatory vaccination for all staff in aged care.
“Influenza vaccination of staff is the single best prevention from a disease that causes severe complications and death in vulnerable older persons,” chairman Paul Van Buynder said.