Earlier this year, the Australian government released a directive requiring all staff in “high-risk workplaces” to provide information on their flu vaccination status, including restricting access to work in certain areas for those who refuse to comply.
The move is the latest example in a trend that has seen both public and private sectors introduce policies requiring vaccinations for work, leaving many concerned that immunisation may soon become a mandatory requirement for all employment.
Given increased media propaganda surrounding the topic, could the pro-vaccine lobby and their desire for mandatory vaccination in Australia soon expand to encompass all workplaces? Ethan Nash explores the next step of the vaccination debate.
Believe it or not, there is no universal requirement across Australia that staff in workplaces be vaccinated against infectious diseases, either for their own protection or the protection of those in their care.
Furthermore, despite numerous campaigns promoting the flu vaccine to Australian health workers over the last decade, uptake has been documented to range from only 16% onwards, with an even lower rate reported among aged-care workers.
However, if you have switched on the television, read a newspaper or scoped consensus public opinion lately – you would be mistaken for believing that it is. What once was a country that allowed conscientious objections to this topic, has since become a health dystopia for collectivism.
In recent years, Australia has seen increased programming from mainstream media and government authorities urging various changes across workplace private policy and public legislation to slowly coerce the population into receiving vaccinations – or miss out.
Today, most workplaces run intensive vaccination programs, which may include mass immunisation clinics, mobile carts, posters and email reminders, and some industries, will not accept you as an employee or your child into care without updated vaccination documents.
Many civil liberty groups and pro-choice campaigners have expressed concerns in recent years that, while not openly mandatory just yet, subtle changes in vaccine perception and policy in Australia will lead the public to a system where vaccination will be a staple for essential activities in life.
The federal government has campaigned extensively over the last decade to combat low rates in what they describe as “high risk workplaces” – businesses where employees are surrounded with those who have vulnerable health, such as in hospitals and aged care centres.
The use of vaccination mandates for health care workers is not new in Australia. In fact, in most states and territories, staff are required to have vaccines for (or show evidence of protection against) measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and chicken pox.
NSW introduced mandatory vaccination for all health care workers for several vaccines in 2007, however the flu was not included in this requirement. NSW health workers generally accepted this change in policy, with only 4% objecting.
Earlier this year, however, the aged care sector in Australia was victim to what authorities are describing as “one of its worst outbreaks of influenza in recorded history”, with over 175,000 recorded cases for 2017 and one facility being home to seven residents who died of disease.
As a result, it was announced in April that provisions of influenza vaccination programs offered to all staff in residential aged care homes will become compulsory, and it will now be required that every aged care provider offers the flu vaccine to every single worker.
In a joint statement, Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care Key Wyatt said Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy would look at ways to boost vaccination rates among residential aged care workers including making the flu vaccination compulsory.
Greg Hunt has asked Murphy to investigate ways to ensure all workers are properly vaccinated against flu:
“I will work with the medical authorities, health-care workers and the aged-care providers on how we can make it compulsory for those working in aged-care facilities.”
– Health Minister, Greg Hunt MP.
At the time of the announcement, only 3.5 per cent of aged care homes in Australia had the recommended staff coverage of 95 per cent or higher to gain ‘herd immunity’.
Is this a perfect example of what free choice proponents are concerned about? Does a subtle path to mandatory vaccination seem clearly evident at this point?
NO JAB, NO JOB?
To implement compulsory staff vaccination would not be hard. We are already here. Media propaganda surrounding vaccines remains strong enough to convince private sector employers that they simply need to develop a vaccination policy and then direct staff to comply with it.
This has already begun to occur overseas, where a requirement to serve the greater ‘social good’ has punished multiple employers and industries for not incorporating policies to help curve falling rates – because apparently discrimination is allowed if ‘it goes to a person’s ability to do the job’.
Hundreds of workers have been fired in other countries for opting out of the flu vaccination when their employer required inoculation. In 2012, TriHealth, the largest employer in Cincinnati, Ohio, terminated 150 employees who did not comply with their flu vaccine mandate.
Many pro-vaccine lobbyists describe vaccination of health workers as a moral duty, with many arguing that implementing a mandatory policy has dramatically reduced employee sick days, as well as flu in hospitals, thereby ‘improving patient safety’ and ‘reducing health care costs’.
As a result, some roles within Queensland Health are now designated as ‘Vaccination Preventable Disease (VPD) risk roles’.
If you are applying for a role that has been designated as a VPD risk role, you must be able to provide evidence that you have been vaccinated against the VPD’s listed.
Non-compliance can mean loss of an existing position or non-eligibility when applying for a new role in the sector.
The HR Breakfast Club recently commented on this discussion, supporting dismissals as a justified action for those who refuse to get vaccinations:
“Staff who don’t comply within a reasonable time can, and should, have their employment reassigned or terminated.
No matter if there is no Code of Conduct or no written term in their contract of employment: employees have an implied contractual obligation to obey lawful and reasonable directions.
So long as they have had proper notice, I can’t see a successful unfair dismissal or discrimination claim ensuing.”
Given large potential gains and low resource requirements, mandatory flu vaccination for workers in high-risk areas is working extremely well thus far. How long until the next industry falls?
In the end, judgments regarding mandating the occurrence of vaccination have not been commonly tested in an employment context.
Concerns by social advocate groups are clearly justified given the increased combination of propaganda from media, government and big business surrounding vaccinations.
We are already living in the era of coercion. Coercion in terms of isolation from vital services, employment and related activities for not following the herd.
Is it only a matter of time before the coercion becomes open tyranny? And what really is the difference?
The only thing we can do is stop these moves while there is still time!
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Mandatory vaccine programs to curb aged care influenza | Department of Health
Compulsory Vaccinations in the Workplace | The HR Breakfast Club
150 Employees Sacked for Refusing Vaccines | WLWT.com