Q Fever vaccination - making employers sweat

Q Fever vaccination - making employers sweat

COMMENT
Dairy
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Who is responsible for footing the bill for Q Fever vaccinations?

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There has been much deliberation over the mandatory vaccination of the population against COVID-19, a cost of which is largely taken up by the federal government. It has started (and continued) the conversation of who is responsible for footing the bill for Q Fever vaccinations for farm staff.

In contrast to COVID, there are no state or federal subsidies for the immunisation program due to the low prevalence rate for Australia's population.

However, in Queensland the prevalence is significant, with over 300 people contracting the disease each year. As the bacterial infection is spread from livestock and dust, agricultural and agribusiness workers are most at risk of contracting Q Fever.

The cost of the vaccination varies per clinic and patient need (consultation(s), skin test and vaccination), ranging from $150 to $450 to get vaccinated. It's not a large outlay but when staff become seasonal and low industry retention rates prevail, the cost starts to add up. On the other hand, this is also a large and daunting cost for someone starting in the industry.

So, who is responsible for footing the bill? Currently there is no legislation that mandates workers to be vaccinated against Q Fever. However, as a known risk in the dairy industry a business owner is required to manage risks to workers under the workplace health and safety legislation.

The simplest and best control measure outlined on the WorkSafe Qld website is the Q Fever vaccination. If unvaccinated staff is let to work in the dairy, appropriate management strategies need to be implemented and provided to employees (e.g. PPE - masks, changing from a high pressure hosing system to a low pressure, dust controls in yards etc.).

In short, employers are responsible for immunising their staff, otherwise appropriate risk mitigation and prevention strategies need to be implemented. Q Fever is contracted through the inhalation of air or dust from contaminated animals and their environments therefore hazard prevention circulates around respiratory equipment and reducing stirring up sediments in the yards.

The national immunisation handbook is a key information source on all diseases/immunisations such as Q Fever and WorkSafe Qld is a great resource to refer to for your obligations as an employer.

The national immunisation handbook: https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/q-fever

WorkSafe Qld: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/hazards/hazardous-exposures/biological-hazards/diseases-from-animals/q-fever

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