Restrictions flagged for refusing vaccine
Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has raised the possibility of restrictions for people who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available, if proven successful.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Dr Coatsworth said rules like 'No jab no pay', which would restrict government payments, could be brought in to ensure more Australians are immunised against the coronavirus.
He also mentioned regulations around international and interstate travel, and even moving within the community, would need to be reviewed.
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison backtracked on his comments that a coronavirus vaccine will be as "mandatory as you can possibly make it" for all Australians if the Oxford University version proves successful in Phase III trials and is approved for use.
But Mr Morrison did say he was "open to all options" to get as many Australians as possible vaccinated.
News.com.au revealed Wednesday that the Morrison Government confirmed a landmark agreement with drug giant AstraZeneca to manufacture one of the world's most promising coronavirus vaccines currently being developed by Oxford University researchers.
If it's proved safe to use, Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes the agreement will ensure Australians will be among the first countries in the world to secure the jab, revealing this morning it could be available to Aussies as soon as early next year.
The UK Government has already ordered 100 million doses.
Asked whether the vaccine would be mandatory, Mr Morrison told 3AW's Neil Mitchell on Wednesday morning that it needed to get to about 95 per cent of the population.
"I would expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it," the PM said.
But later that afternoon, he told 2GB's Jim Wilson that the vaccine wouldn't be compulsory.
"There's been a bit of an over-reaction to any suggestion of this, there will be no compulsory vaccine," he said.
"What we want to achieve is as much vaccination as we possibly can."
Dr Coatsworth said the first step was to assure Australians that the vaccine that is brought in is safe and effective.
"It's that confidence that's going to get the bulk of Australians getting vaccinated. I have absolutely no doubt about that," Dr Coatsworth said.
"I suspect the majority of Australians will get vaccinated and there will be a strong public view that those who choose not to get vaccinated there needs to be some sort of incentive, perhaps through current objectives (like) no jab, no pay.
"I know that's a very reasonable interpretation of the what the PM had to say today."
Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Australian Government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. pic.twitter.com/41OTT8Yd6f— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) August 19, 2020
Dr Coatsworth said other possible measures would need to be discussed and decided by the government. But he listed as possible measures:
• Not being able to go into restaurants
• Not being able to travel internationally
• Not being able to catch public transport
Dr Coatsworth also flagged the idea of "a yellow fever vaccination certificate" he described like what they had in the "olden days".
"These are clearly policy decisions that need, will be discussed, but there's no current mechanism to enforce that sort of thing at the moment," he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt echoed the Prime Minister's comments over the non-enforcement of the vaccine on A Current Affair on Wednesday night and flagged the idea of a vaccination certificate again.
He said that while campaigns and encouragement to get Australians vaccinated was at play, a mandatory vaccine "has been clearly ruled out" but he "would not rule out" the idea of a vaccination being a forced requirement when entering Australia.
He said it would "seem strange" if Australia allowed people in who hadn't already been vaccinated.
"The medical advice will dictate how we proceed," he said.
Registered nurse and biomedical scientist Dr. Zac Turner told news.com.au he believed a person who refuses to be vaccinated should not be allowed to travel interstate or overseas, nor be allowed to travel on public transport without a face mask.
When it comes to the private sector, he said businesses could refuse these anti-vaxxers from visiting their retail outlets, gyms, movie cinemas, restaurants, bars or nightclubs.
"As a precedence, state governments have previously banned children from attending childcare if they are not vaccinated," he said.
"Similar restrictions could be placed on Australians who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
"No longer can we nurse the conspiracy theories of a few, and put us all at risk."
Dr Coatsworth said the safety trials for the main candidate vaccines have had excellent results and pointed towards record rates of the flu vaccination this year in the wake of the pandemic as hope that similar will happen with the release of the virus vaccine.
Despite the talk of restrictions, Dr Coatsworth said he anticipates there will be strong public support for the measures to encourage people to get vaccinated.
"I suspect the majority of Australians will get vaccinated and there will be a strong public view that those who choose not to get vaccinated need to," he said.
Acting CMO Paul Kelly said the vaccine would be made as a "voluntary call" for Australians at first and believed there would be a "strong" response with "socially distanced queues" to get back to "some sort of normal".
Anti-vaxxers have reacted with fury at the announcement of the shots for all Australians.
Science Minister Karen Andrews says there is "enormous risk" people will believe conspiracy theories and refuse the vaccine.
"It's just beyond the pale and disinformation or misinformation is dangerous and can lead to loss of life," Ms Andrews told the Herald Sun.
Originally published as Restrictions flagged for refusing vaccine