COVID-19 Vaccination: Governments Slowly Tighten the Noose

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COVID vaccine doctor

Construction workers have been added to the NSW Government’s growing list of industry employees being ‘encouraged’ to get vaccinated so they can keep their jobs.

As the construction industry prepares to re-open at half previous worksite capacity after weeks of hiatus, the Berejiklian Government has released a statement saying that workers in COVID-affected Local Government Areas (LGAs) must provide evidence they have received:

  • Two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least three weeks before attending work, or
  • One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and, if less than three weeks since that vaccine was administered, a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours.

Exemptions will be in place for individuals with medical or other conditions that make vaccination unsuitable.

It is yet more evidence that while people may believe they do have free choice in terms of getting the vaccine, there are ways in which the Government can in practical terms compel them to receive the vaccine. 

No jab, no job

These public health stipulations are being rolled out under the guise of “stopping the spread” and “keeping the community safe”, but many believe they unjustifiably impinge on the freedom of bodily integrity – that a person should have the right to choose what they put into their own bodies.

Those who do not wish to obtain a COVID vaccine have expressed the view that governments should not be able to pass laws which, in practical terms, compel individuals to inject a new drug into their bodies –one with reported side-effects for which there has been changing health advice and the government has given manufacturers immunity from civil claims.

The vaccine is already mandatory across a number of industries, including airport and quarantine workers, aged care, some health staff, and now construction workers.

For many, it is a concerning trend, and that vaccination passports / certificates which are likely to be introduced later this year will only serve to further discriminate against those who choose not to be vaccinated.

The construction industry  announcement comes on the back of a recently-released survey undertaken by the University of Sydney. The survey suggests that the typical characteristics of people who are less likely to follow COVID health rules are males with an average age of 29, and who – according to the study – are more likely to prioritise their freedom over other considerations.

Young men less likely to get vaccinated

University of Sydney researchers surveyed men in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada and found that younger men are reluctant to wear a mask due to an attitude of ‘invincibility’ about their ability to beat the virus.

The study concluded that this group was also less likely to stay-up-to-date with news and official COVID, information and was less likely to verify the accuracy of information they did receive. They were also less likely to trust the government.

Local health data across the nation also shows that men across all age groups younger than 60 to 70 years lag well behind women in getting vaccinated.

Numerous health experts have said in recent weeks that to reach Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s target of having 80% of Australians vaccinated, we need to convince young men to get the jab.

So is it a coincidence that the construction industry, which is a workforce made up predominantly of young men, is now being singled out by the New South Wales Government for mandatory vaccinations?

This also needs to be put into context. While the data suggests that young men might be reluctant to get vaccinated, it’s only been a few weeks since young people in Australia have been eligible for a vaccination, so long as they consult their GP first, so the data may not necessarily provide the full picture.

Liberal Party pushback over ‘mandatory’ jabs

Within the NSW Liberal party itself there is strong pushback over making COVID vaccinations mandatory for construction workers, and at least three MPs have backed a private members’ bill to put a blanket stop to “no jab, no job” policies.

Scott Morrison has made several comments in recent weeks which would suggest he’s in favour of employers being able to  enforce their employees to get vaccinated. But this could also open the door to a tsunami of legal action and unfair dismissal cases being taken to the Fair Work Commission. The impact of any litigation, in terms of time and cost, for small businesses, will be overwhelming.

Overseas, large corporations including Netflix, Google, Delta Airlines and Microsoft are already introducing COVID vaccination policies.

The NSW government has repeatedly stated that it hopes to reach 6 million COVID vaccinations by the end of August, which would give it more options for easing lockdowns.

So far, about 4.4 million jabs have been administered. But it’s a slippery slope for democracy when Governments begin to enforce vaccinations instead of finding alternative strategies to combat the virus that still allow people personal choice and privacy about the health choices they make, and slowing down the wholesale closure of businesses.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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