‘No public health justification’: Australia’s top doctor Dr Nick Coatsworth calls on workplaces to drop vaccination mandates
Dr Nick Coatsworth urges companies to ‘rethink’ sting mandates, arguing that vaccination does not reduce the transmissibility of the Omicron variant and that working-age Australians are less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 .
Australia’s former deputy health director Dr Nick Coatsworth has said it’s time for workplaces to drop vaccination mandates, saying ‘there is no public health rationale’ behind them .
Speaking to Sky News Australia’s Peta Credlin on Monday, the infectious disease doctor said now was not the right time in the pandemic to consider COVID-19 mandates.
“We have to be vigilant about COVID-19, there’s no doubt about that,” Dr Coatsworth said.
“But what does this vigilance mean in 2022? Well, it’s a very different thing to 2020 where we had no vaccine or treatment.
“Warrants have a role, but it’s very early on when you have to protect as many lives as possible when there are too many unknown unknowns.”
A number of companies still have a ‘no sting, no pay’ policy, including Coles, Woolworths, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Commonwealth Bank.
But Dr Coatsworth said there was no longer a public health rationale for them, arguing that the emergence of the Omicron variant meant vaccines were no longer effectively reducing transmission.
“In the past, certainly in 2021, when vaccines came out in the Delta epidemic, we saw that as vaccination rates increased, the epidemic curve started to decrease, and there was probably an effect on transmission,” he said.
“But the contagiousness of Omicron has exceeded that, so you can’t have a work safety reason to have a vaccination mandate, because it just doesn’t reduce the risk of vaccinated colleagues getting the virus, so it is out the window.
He argued that another reason for scrapping the mandates was that high vaccination rates meant working-age Australians were not severely affected by the virus.
“You have to wonder if those two reasons don’t exist, then can an Australian be made redundant and end up jobless,” he said.
“With all that entails; financial difficulties, difficulties within the family, mental health issues – should we be doing that at this stage of the pandemic – and I think the answer is no.”
“Companies should really rethink any vaccine mandate they currently have.”
Infectious disease physician Dr Paul Griffin said a combination of vaccination, COVID-19 treatments and personal protection was important to reduce the need for future warrants.
“We know these newer subvariants are more infectious and we are seeing reduced protection from both vaccination and recent infection,” he told Sky News on Monday.
“That’s why we’ve expanded eligibility for boosters to deal with this waning immunity, and that’s also why we’ve expanded our eligibility for antivirals.
“We need to educate people better, we need to empower them to make the right decision and really encourage mask-wearing.
“We need people to get those boosters, the expanded eligibility is one thing, but there are a lot of people who still haven’t gotten their third or fourth dose.
“We need a comprehensive strategy and if we are successful we won’t need to consider mandates.”