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No jab, no train: Young bans unvaccinated student nurses at hospitals, aged care


Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young had moved to further restrict access to vulnerable patients before a Brisbane student nurse tested positive for COVID-19.

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In a letter to educators on Monday, Young said that from 8pm today, any students on clinical placement would only be allowed to enter a restricted vulnerable facility if they had been fully vaccinated. That would primarily affect hospitals, but also extend to aged care, disability services and prison health centres.

Young said restricting visitor access to such facilities during periods of community transmission kept residents safe but she was worried about a recent case in Sydney where an unvaccinated student nurse worked in two hospitals while infectious.

“This is obviously a troubling development and highlights why we must take the necessary mitigations to prevent transmission into our vulnerable facilities,” Young wrote.

Yesterday, Young revealed an unvaccinated student nurse at Griffith University, and on clinical placement at Logan Hospital, had tested positive. While the student nurse had been on holidays and asymptomatic, limiting the risk of transmission, she still visited a patient for an hour. The patient has so far tested negative.

While student nurses are eligible for vaccines under phase 1b, a shortage of Pfizer has frustrated efforts to ensure they are protected against the worse of COVID-19, without the risk of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Banning unvaccinated student nurses from all facilities would have staffing implications and comes as Queensland Health is struggling to meet demand for Pfizer, even among its own staff and the aged care staff it is also trying to vaccinate for the Commonwealth. There would currently be hundreds of student nurses on clinical placements and no publicly available data on vaccination rates.

Young said universities were informed of the students’ eligibility in May and “as some six weeks have now passed since this communication, it is my expectation that students on clinical placements should have availed themselves of the opportunity to be vaccinated for COVID-19”.

“I appreciate that this change in access to restricted vulnerable facilities for students on clinical placements may initially cause disruption,” Young wrote.

“However, the measure only applies while a facility is restricted.”

Current restrictions in 13 local government areas are due to end at 6pm on July 16. Young warned that any future changes “may happen at short notice and vaccination requirements for students on clinical placement would be reinstated”.

The move comes after Health Minister Yvette D’Ath announced the department would consider extending the mandatory vaccination rule for health workers – which currently only applies to those in COVID-19 wards – to all hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

It followed an unvaccinated receptionist at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, who worked outside a COVID-19 ward, unknowingly contracting the Delta variant and travelling to Townsville, sparking the lockdown in both cities. An internal investigation will examine whether she broke the rule but D’Ath acknowledged it was a “grey area”.

Another worker at the hospital caught the Alpha variant at a Chermside café and worked a shift before testing positive.

Today, in announcing only one new case in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and D’Ath paid tribute to all health workers for their ongoing efforts to manage the pandemic.

D’Ath acknowledged health workers risked contracting the virus “whether you’re in a Covid ward or not”.

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