Why (most) Vaccine Mandates are a Distraction

At the present moment Australia’s Federal and State governments are racing to vaccinate their citizens. Whilst it was initially criticised as more of a stroll-out than a rollout, the arrival of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Sydney seemed to provide an impetus to the vaccination programme. Certainly, significant problems remain, not least the apparent inclination to vaccinate those whose risk level is relatively minimal whilst those who are in priority groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, continue to have low levels of vaccination. Nevertheless, the programme now has some momentum and there is an expectation that a fairly high level of vaccination—around the 70-80% mark—can be achieved before the end of the year.

As the pandemic has unfolded there have been ongoing discussions about whether or not vaccination should be mandated in some way. On the face of it, the Prime Minister has been fairly clear that individuals will be able to choose for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated. Nevertheless, he has also refused to rule out the idea that employers might mandate vaccination for their employees. Furthermore, facing growing criticism of the vaccination programme and the levels of vaccination amongst those who work in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF), the National Cabinet (which is to say the Prime Minister and all state and territory first ministers) agreed to mandate vaccination for those who work in this setting. State Legislation to this effect has followed and, those who have not received their first vaccination by mid-September will likely be unable to continue to work in RACF. Indeed, at the time of writing the AMA called for all those who work in healthcare to be subject to a mandatory vaccination whilst others are seeking to extend the mandate to those working in other areas of the care sector.