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Frontline staff including nurses and doctors working across Victoria’s public hospitals will be forced to get a flu shot under proposed new rules announced today by the state government in a bid to ramp up its fight against the deadly illness.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the directive would demand nurses, doctors and other staff working in high-risk areas including intensive care units, neonatal intensive care units and cancer wards be vaccinated against the flu and that staff who refuse would be redeployed to other parts of the hospital.

The Victorian government already provides free flu shots for its healthcare workers.

Guidelines encourage hospital staff to get the flu jab but it is not currently mandatory.

Ms Mikakos said the government had commenced working on the plan with health experts, unions and hospitals and that it would be looking at legislative change to put the rules into effect.

She said there had already been 40,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza across the state, including 10,000 children, and over 70 deaths.

About 83% of hospital staff across Victoria have been vaccinated against the flu this year, she added.

“There’s no doubt about it – vaccinations are safe, effective and save lives,” Ms Mikakos said.

“That’s why we’re taking action to make sure health workers and patients are protected against dangerous diseases.”