Home Australian News Should COVID-vaccine booster mandates be scrapped for Victorian healthcare workers?

Should COVID-vaccine booster mandates be scrapped for Victorian healthcare workers?

Should COVID-vaccine booster mandates be scrapped for Victorian healthcare workers?

“I am triple [vaccinated], our eldest child is double … and we remain supportive of the measures taken,” Josh said.

“For us, this is now an argument of policy, or specifically, policy review.

“In another universe, Naomi could have had a booster in March 2022, and still be working today, even though any effect of this booster would have long worn off.”

Naomi said that being able to work in a hospital environment again would mean higher pay and child-friendly shifts.

“Cost of living has really impacted us. I can’t even put into words the stress it’s put us under,” she said.

In Victoria, all hospital, aged care and ambulance workers have had to be fully vaccinated – including a booster – since October 2022.


NSW mandates a primary vaccination course for healthcare workers – usually two doses – but a booster is only “strongly recommended” based on expert advice. Queensland Health dropped its vaccine mandates last year.

Leading vaccine uptake expert Professor Julie Leask, from the University of Sydney, told The Sunday Age that the case for ongoing COVID vaccine mandates was weak.

Leask said vaccines remained good at reducing the likelihood of developing a severe illness from the virus, but they were now “not so good” at stopping people getting COVID altogether or passing it onto others – an attribute that would usually be required to support compulsory vaccination.

“Rarely can you mandate something for an individual’s benefit. It may be justifiable to mandate something for the benefit of protecting others,” Leask said.


“Given that we are now in a situation where most people have immunity from both initial vaccines and from COVID itself, and vaccinated people can still transmit COVID, it is very difficult to justify ongoing vaccination requirements for COVID-19.”

While vaccinations had proved effective at stopping people from catching earlier versions of COVID entirely, new variants had chipped away at vaccines’ ability to stop the virus from spreading.

Leask said it was important to review vaccination policies regularly, and that if a maternity unit wanted to help protect pregnant women visiting the service from COVID, the best form of protection was for pregnant women to have their own vaccinations, if recommended.

Unvaccinated pregnant women are at higher risk of falling severely ill with COVID, and the vaccines are safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, according to Australian government advice.


“The chance of a single midwife getting a booster and reducing the risk of patients getting COVID is just a drop in the ocean,” Leask said. “To me, it’s very hard to justify a requirement for the third dose given where we are at now with COVID.”

Professor Catherine Bennett, a panellist for Australia’s COVID-19 inquiry, supports vaccine mandates in sensitive healthcare settings but says the program should be similar to the flu vaccine, which is given ahead of the expected wave of cases.

She said this could mean that COVID booster shots would not be required for workers who have had COVID in the past six months, making them still eligible to work as they would have some immunity from prior infection.

Bennett isn’t convinced, however, that vaccine mandates are still appropriate for firefighters, believing vaccines in this group now offered more of an individual benefit than community benefit.


But she said other things could still be done to help COVID spreading among fire crews, such as rapid antigen testing.

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said she has been asking how many healthcare workers recruited from overseas had had their booster shot since late last year, and was still awaiting a response.

Crozier has also told parliament it is “completely ludicrous” that unvaccinated firefighters can visit loved ones in hospital and fly internationally but not return to work at Fire Rescue Victoria.

A government spokeswoman said vaccination requirements for healthcare workers were routinely reviewed by the health department to reflect contemporary epidemiology.

“Any change to this policy would only be considered following extensive consultation with health experts, health services, healthcare workers and unions,” the spokeswoman said.

Another government spokeswoman said that firefighters often had to attend sensitive settings.


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