State leaders continue to push for mandatory Covid vaccinations for all health care workers, despite mounting evidence that fully vaccinated staff can still catch and transmit the virus.
A nurse from Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in Sydney has tested positive for Covid on Tuesday and is now in self-isolation.
The nurse was fully vaccinated against Covid and joins a rising number of people worldwide who contract and spread Covid despite being vaccinated.
Global health authorities continue to stress that vaccination primarily reduces severe Covid symptoms, but does not prevent infection.
The asymptomatic nurse is believed to have been among those working on the Covid ward in the Western Sydney hospital during the recent outbreak which has sent the city into lockdown and closed state borders. As they had no symptoms, the infection was only discovered during routine testing.
“We have to make sure every procedure is in place [to] minimise this happening,” said NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Brett Holmes.
4,174 healthcare workers have tested positive to Covid in Victoria, according to the ABC.
National Cabinet has endorsed a decision by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to enforce mandatory Covid vaccination for all residential aged care workers by mid-September 2021. Health Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked the AHPPC to reconsider the matter in May after it had previously declined to advise ‘compulsion for medical reasons’.
“Aged care workers have until September 17 to receive at least one vaccine dose or they will be unable to work, creating the risk of workforce shortages if too many cannot find a dose and sparking the calls for a new wave of visits by federal teams to aged facilities to jab workers,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Health workers in certain industries are already required to prove that they are vaccinated against a range of diseases, but all of the current mandatory vaccinations have been in use for many years.
Globally, Covid vaccines are operating under emergency use authorisation. Australia does not have this classification, so all Covid vaccines have sought and were granted, provisional approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Despite this classification, no long term data exists on Covid vaccines – unlike the other mandated vaccinations which health care workers are required to take.
Frontline health care workers remain a Phase 1a priority in the National Rollout Strategy.
The question of whether or not vaccinations can be made mandatory to the wider health industry is a complex one, governed by both Federal and State legislation.
For example, according to the Medical Journal of Australia:
In Victoria, section 117 of the Health Services Act 1988 (Vic) states that the Chief Health Officer can issue a public health order requiring a person to receive specified prophylaxis (including vaccination), inclusive of individuals exposed to or likely to contract an infectious disease. The Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Act 2020 (Vic) inserted a provision into the Health Services Act directing health services to require people employed or engaged by them to be vaccinated against or prove immunity to specified diseases. If COVID‐19 were to be included by amendment as a “specified disease”, the Act would preclude a discrimination claim.
It goes on to state that section 91 of the Biosecurity Act allows for an individual to be required by a human biosecurity control order to receive a specified vaccination under certain conditions. Currently, it cannot be used to create arbitrary mandated vaccination schemes for asymptomatic or non-exposed individuals.
This does not exclude new legislation from being written if the approval of the unions can be secured.