What’s more, the PM is so supportive of the campaign that he’s told the Therapeutic goods Administration (TGA) to ‘back off’ when it attempted to intervene – telling the media the TGA’s stance was ‘heavy handed’ while at the same time acknowledging the organisation was just ‘doing its job’.
“(Federal Health Minister) Greg Hunt ‘had a chat’ to the TGA about the issue and “we’ll get it sorted, common sense will prevail,” Mr Morrison said.
The back story
The Prince Alfred Hotel in Melbourne had been running an offer as a vaccination incentive, with patrons offering “a free drink of their choosing — whether it be a pint of beer, a glass of wine , or a house spirit and mixer”.
In its defence, the publican said the offer was made as a ‘bit of fun’ to encourage people to get vaccinated in the hope that future lockdowns might be prevented.
But the TGA stepped in almost immediately, reminding the establishment of regulations which ban the offer of “alcohol, tobacco or registered medicines” as incentives for COVID-19 vaccinations.
What is the TGA?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is an organisation within the Australian Government Department of Health which is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods such as prescription medicines, vaccines, sunscreens, vitamins and minerals, medical devices, blood and blood products.
What are the TGA guidelines for the Covid-19 vaccination?
Current TGA guidelines provide that:
“Any party can offer valuable consideration (cash or other rewards) to people who have been fully vaccinated under the Government’s national COVID-19 vaccination program, subject to the following conditions:
- the offer can only be made to people who have been fully vaccinated, which for the current approved COVID-19 vaccines, means two vaccinations. The TGA does not prescribe the means by which full vaccination is to be verified
- the offer must contain a statement to the effect that the vaccination must be undertaken on the advice of a health practitioner
- rewards must not include tobacco or medicines (other than listed medicines)
- the offer must only refer to COVID-19 vaccines generically (i.e. not by trade name or another reference to a particular vaccine, such as ‘the mRNA vaccine’)
- the offer must be made to all eligible people who have been vaccinated i.e. the offer cannot be made to only those people vaccinated from the date of the offer, it must also apply retrospectively (i.e. to those who have commenced or completed their vaccination schedule prior to an offer being announced).
- an offer of alcohol must not encourage excessive or rapid consumption of alcohol, have a strong or evident appeal to minors and must be served consistent with the Responsible Service of Alcohol arrangements
- the offer can be made to a certain group, for example the employees of the business, or the members of the organisation, or to all members of the public.
Matters of concern
It’s an issue that may seem lighthearted, and even sort of in the spirit of Aussie larrikinism’, but it offering alcohol to a segment of the public only can have implications – including potentially creating a divide or even animosity between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
It is also concerning that a politician can make a phone call to have rules and regulations ‘waived’ in situations they consider fit. However, this is nothing new – we’ve seen plenty of allegations and investigations into incidents of high level politicians breaking the rules and the laws for a variety of reasons.
Another question is whether it is sensible to offer free alcohol at all.
As some health experts have already pointed out, alcohol consumption has seen a significant increase during Covid, especially under lockdown. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show that 13.9 percent of people surveyed said they drank more between March and June 2020.
As the chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Terry Slevin, points out,
“There’s a whole bunch of reasons why offering alcohol as an incentive to do anything in the health sphere doesn’t make sense.”
The Prince Alfred Hotel recently changed the nature of the promotion, offering food or a discount instead of a free alcoholic drink.
Is drinking alcohol safe after getting vaccinated?
The research is not definitive on whether you should or shouldn’t drink alcohol after having the Covid vaccination.
There is research to suggest that excessive alcohol consumption can suppress the immune system and, in turn, reduce the effectiveness of a Covid vaccine.
But other researchers say that a drink or two can potentially alleviate side-effects, which have been described as ‘flu-like’.
Perhaps abstinence may be the best policy, at least for a day or two post-injection.