Mandatory vaccines a possibility

COVID-19 vaccines could be made compulsory in aged care centres once Australia learns more about their long-term effectiveness.

The first vaccines in Australia were administered on Sunday, a day before the official rollout began, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison part of a small group to receive the Pfizer jab.

Nearly 700 Australians have died of COVID-19 in aged care settings, but the government has ruled out mandating the jab in high-risk environments.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the decision was based on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) but remained “an open matter”.

“There remains a question as to whether the vaccine effectively prevents transmission of the virus, and that would be the reason that you would make it compulsory,” he told Sky News on Monday.

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“There is more information starting to come through, and the AHPPC have said that they will keep this matter open and make a decision if that’s what the medical advice and information shows.”

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd confirmed that national cabinet had requested the AHPPC look into mandatory vaccines.

But he said it was too early to discuss obligatory vaccines, with just 142,000 doses in Australia.

“At the moment we can’t make it mandatory because we don’t have the vaccine available to everybody right across the country,” he told the ABC.

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, which will both be administered in Australia, are highly effective at preventing serious illness and symptoms.

But with less known about their long-term effectiveness, Professor Kidd said more would be learned after the vaccine was rolled out.

“We know they are very effective at preventing the development of serious illness from COVID-19, but we don’t know if people can still become infected and be at risk of asymptomatic transmission to other people,” he said.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said authorities were looking into ‘when and if’ vaccines would be made mandatory. Picture: AAP Image / Mick Tsikas
Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said authorities were looking into ‘when and if’ vaccines would be made mandatory. Picture: AAP Image / Mick Tsikas

“We (also) don’t yet know how long the immunity conferred by the vaccine will last. These are things we will find out over the coming months.”

Department of Health figures showed last week more than a quarter of Australians would delay receiving the jab, while nearly 10 per cent would refuse one altogether.

Professor Kidd insisted while vaccine hesitancy was a concern, the vast majority of Australians were “determined” to be immunised.

“Yes, there are still some people who are hesitant about the vaccine,” he said.

“To those people I say Therapeutic Goods Administration has gone through its usual rigorous and thorough processes to ensure the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines which are being approved for use in Australia.

“Please, when it comes to be your turn, please line up along with the rest of us and get your vaccine.”

Originally published as Mandatory vaccines a possibility