Kazuo ota

COVID-19 vaccine information and resources

Getting vaccinated isn’t just about ‘not catching COVID’, as critically important as that is.

It’s about reclaiming our old lives; the things we once took for granted.

Meeting grandchildren, hugging your mum, catching up with friends.

It’s about music festivals, first dates and dancefloor introductions.

It’s about an end to home-schooling, and hitting the open road.

It’s about safety, certainty, security and regaining control over your life.

It’s about moving away from ‘crisis mode’, so we can get busy building the future we all want.

 


Vaccine engagement HQ

Original resources produced by VCOSS members to support Victoria’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

 

Video resources

Title Produced Usage
‘Back To The Good Things’ TVC
Open source pro-vaccination video message from Victoria’s community sector
VCOSS No restrictions. Free to use.
‘Are there vaccine side effects?’
Short video for social media. 
VCOSS No restrictions
‘How to argue with an anti vaxxer’
Short video for social media. 
VCOSS No restrictions
Vaccine explainer
(Dinka/Thuɔŋjäŋ)
BCHS No restrictions
Vaccine explainer
(Dari/دری)
BCHS No restrictions
Vaccine explainer
(Karen/ကညီကျိၥ်)
BCHS No restrictions
Vaccine ‘Q and A’
(Karen/ကညီကျိၥ်)
BCHS No restrictions

 

Printed resources

Title Produced Usage
Vaccine explained (Dinka/Thuɔŋjäŋ) BCHS No restrictions
Vaccine explained (Dari/دری) BCHS No restrictions
Vaccine explained (Karen/ကညီကျိၥ်) BCHS No restrictions

 

Audio resources

Title Produced Usage
Coming soon.    

 

Upcoming events

No planned events

Video recordings and transcripts of past events (‘Vaccinating Victoria’) are available below.

 

Supported by


Vaccinating Victoria

A rolling briefing series providing critical information about the COVID-19 vaccine program.

These sessions were recorded live on April 19th, 2021, with guest presenters;

  • Professor Ben Cowie, Victorian COVID Immunisation Team
  • Melissa Scadden and Taboka Finn, law firm Justitia
Health concerns and the rolloutWorkplace and legal issues

For the most up-to-date advice, always visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine

What's in this video?

These chapters are also marked on the YouTube video progress bar.

0:00​ Welcoming Professor Ben Cowie
0:55​ Professor Cowie’s opening remarks
1:26​ Formal presentation – vaccine rollout update
15:09​ Vaccine side effects
16:59​ Accompanying someone whilst they get vaccinated
17:17​ Working with vulnerable, but not vaccinated
18:57​ Is AstraZeneca safe?
23:37​ Family violence refuge and support workers
24:22​ I don’t have a regular GP – who do I see?
25:42​ Street-based communities
28:00​ Visiting low immune people after vaccination
29:41​ Vaccinating volunteers
30:29​ Getting groups vaccinated
34:46​ Can I get choose the Pfizer vaccine?
36:26​ Vaccine(s) and pregnancy, breastfeeding etc
40:07​ Getting sick before your vaccine appointment
41:08​ Declaring underlying conditions when under 70
42:39​ Already had COVID-19?
43:16​ Talking to anti-vaxxers
46:05​ Talking to young people
49:43​ Reporting side effects

Full transcript

Please check against delivery.

EMMA KING: We’ll now shift focus to the mechanics of the vaccine rollout itself. It’s an understatement to say there’s lots happening in this space. We can see our news bulletins full every single night. There’s lots of information and I have to say lots of misinformation that’s floating around and I know that’s been challenging for all of us as well. So to bring you the absolute lightest and also to explain key components of the effects, we have very thrilled to welcome back Professor Ben Cowie from Victoria’s department of health.

Ben is a senior advisor to the COVID-19 immunisation programme. Ben, a significant welcome and thank you from all of us. As a lot’s been happening over the last week and since we last had our Vaccinating Victoria, our first briefing series. So perhaps if I hand over to you to begin with to give a kind of general update and then we’ll jump straight into questions, thanks.

BEN COWIE:  Thank you so much, Emma for the opportunity to be here today, it’s a great pleasure to be here and to discuss with all of you the vaccine programme and hear your perspectives and advice. I will present an update briefly and then we can get to the Q and A but before I do, I do want to acknowledge that I’m on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and acknowledge the elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge the elders of the lands where I live, the Boonerong people of the Kulin nation.

So I would like to share my screen and then we’ll get going. So hopefully that’s presenting okay. So thanks for the opportunity, Emma as I said and colleagues. So we have spoken about the vaccination programme previously. Just to reiterate though, that there are three pillars for the programme. And I’m sure that these are very close to the hearts of all the VCOSS members and friends and colleagues that are present on the call today. And that these are fundamentally founded on principles of equity of access, both geographically but also in terms of the appropriateness of the vaccine programme and wherever people are accessing vaccination that that is done in the highest levels of safety and quality. And thirdly, that we maintain public trust and confidence. As you mentioned at the start of just before when you were introducing me Emma, public confidence has taken a hit in the last couple of weeks. We have to acknowledge that and we have to find ways to relate the absolute evidence base and the accurate information, at the same time as having a view to maintaining confidence of people in these vaccines, which remained very safe for the vast majority of people and also very effective and will protect Australians as they are already doing overseas from the devastation that COVID-19 has caused in so many countries and in so many health systems internationally. So this is a Commonwealth programme, it’s the Commonwealth government who have procured the vaccines.

It’s the Commonwealth who distributes the vaccines both through their direct programmes, such as in residential aged care and residential disability care and also through the general practise network. But it is also the Commonwealth who distributes the vaccines to States and territories for use, in our state supported programmes. So the Victorian government clearly has responsibility for commissioning and supporting additional vaccination clinics. And as was announced by the health minister, Minister Foley yesterday there’s been an increase in access through the state programme which I’ll come back to later in my update but also ensuring that we have our own state-based policy and safety mechanisms and training in place to ensure that irrespective of where a Victorian is vaccinated, that we’re doing that in the best and safest way we possibly can and following the best public health advice that’s available to us. But ultimately it’s the people doing the vaccination who are the critical element here along with the community members coming forward to getting vaccinated, because it’s the vaccine centres, whether it’s a hospital whether it’s a high volume or a high throughput site right down to a mobile team, vaccinating some people in a priority community that has to be done in the safest and highest quality way we can ensure. So we’re currently working our way through phase 1A and 1B of the Commonwealth’s vaccine roll out nationally, and these groups certainly nationally agreed.

Here in Victoria we have added some groups to be vaccinated alongside 1B and that really reflects Victoria’s experience of the second wave of COVID-19 here in Victoria and ensuring that we have high levels of coverage of some of those groups who we know from tragic experience last year are at greater risk of acquiring COVID-19. I’m thinking particularly about, for instance people living in high density, public housing and some other priority groups that we’ve identified. So in relation to the issues that we were just mentioning about confidence in the vaccination programme and particularly around the AstraZeneca vaccine we have seen a reduction in the number of people coming forward to be vaccinated through a state programme. And there’s also been a relatively smaller downturn in the fantastic work being done by our GPs in Victoria.

These numbers are just over 164,000 doses delivered up ’till yesterday in the state programme, which is roughly matched by the number of vaccines that have been given by Victorian GPs in recent weeks. And we’re continuing to work really closely with our GPs ’cause they’re doing a fantastic job in what is quite a difficult environment for them to be vaccinating Victorians but we’re really grateful for the work they’re doing. So one of the important aspects of the AstraZeneca vaccine is that it doesn’t need to be kept at such cold temperatures for long-term storage as does the Pfizer vaccine. And this really is why it’s the vaccine that’s been rolled out in general practise, but it also gives us the opportunity to have more, I guess, diverse delivery models for vaccination. So not just limited to our hospital immunisation hubs nor our high volume vaccine centres, but really opens up other opportunities such as mobile teams being able to deliver a vaccine to priority communities close to where they live also through the fantastic work of community health centres, who were so important to serving the needs of so many Victorians last year who either were affected by or at higher risk of COVID-19. And so we’re really excited about working with our community health partners in delivery of vaccination, again, through their networks.

I guess the other really important structural part of how we’re trying to coordinate vaccination closer to local communities is that these hospital hubs that were the initial sites that Pfizer vaccine was made available through, they’re also aligned with our local public health units in Victoria which are going to be part of our public health infrastructure going forward. And I’m excited about the potential for local public health units to really have that connection to their local communities in a way that our whole of state health department level really can’t. And I’m really also hopeful that by supporting our local public health units or LPHUs to take on this regional coordination approach for vaccination against COVID in their catchments that that will help build those connections with local community, with local health providers, with community organisations, so that this can become part of really driving forward that public health reform in Victoria. So our high volume or Vic Icon centres are a part of what we’re trying to offer. Now, these are specifically offering AstraZeneca vaccine at this point in time and we now have six up and running. The initial two at the Austin or the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and at Sunshine Hospital, joined by the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition centre and South Wharf run by the Royal Melbourne, the Royal Exhibition building in Carlton run by St Vincent’s and the old Ford factory in Geelong run by Barwon Health alongside the Mercure Ballarat organised by Ballarat health. And we also will be having the Melbourne showgrounds joining the fold in the next couple of weeks.

The reason that I’ve highlighted the convention centre, the exhibition building and the Ford factory is because those three were announced yesterday by Minister Foley as opening their doors to all eligible 1A and 1B Victorians from this Wednesday. So I’m really quite excited about that for a variety of reasons, but essentially it’s starting to really build that open access principle. We anticipate that this will most largely be used in the first instance by Victorians aged 70 years and over one of the eligible 1B groups. Look, it is still the case that the best place to get health advice, including advice about COVID-19 vaccination is with people’s GPs. And if people have access to being vaccinated by their GP they should really take that opportunity. The high throughput centres are really about us adding options for people and trying to get as many eligible Victorians vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as we can because we want to have high levels of immunity in the community going into winter. So that’s the mission, if you like, of opening up these high volume vaccination centres or Vic Icon centres to all 1A and 1B populations including people aged under 50, but I’ll come back to that point following the in a moment. So how can people book into these sites? Well, on this slide you can see the hotline that can be called to book in an appointment and you can also visit the website at coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine. These slides go into a bit of detail, but in summary it’s clearly been a very significant couple of weeks in the vaccination space in Australia and indeed internationally.

I’m thinking particularly about the evidence of an association of the AstraZeneca vaccine with a serious but very rare adverse effect or side effect involving clotting, particularly in people aged under 50 years. And as a result of a review of the evidence, ATAGI, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation have advised that the Pfizer vaccine is preferred in adults aged under 50 years. So AstraZeneca can still be given under 50 years but that needs to be done in consultation with the person seeking vaccination and with appropriate informed consent and consideration of the risks and benefits. But this does introduce significant complexities to the vaccination programme. So it is a very rare side effect. It is roughly one in every 200,000 people vaccinated. So it’s of a similar order of magnitude to being struck by lightning in a given year, slightly more frequent, but it is very rare, however, it is serious and it is something that obviously we all need to take seriously. So ATAGI’s age-based recommendations really are trying to strike the balance between vaccination in a population where fortunately we don’t have active ongoing COVID transmission, but still seeking to protect the community. Because if transmission of COVID does commence again the risks of serious outcomes of COVID-19 are vastly greater than is any risk of this clotting disorder. And that’s the balance we’re trying to strike. So I note that I’m getting a little bit over time.

I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially for people over the age of 50, it’s still recommended that they proceed with AstraZeneca vaccination as previously. For people under the age of 50, if they’ve already had their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s safe to go ahead and get the second dose. If someone has not yet had any COVID-19 vaccination Pfizer is now preferred, but because of the limited supply of Pfizer in the community, this will need a discussion between each individual and a decision about how they go forward in relation to vaccination, waiting for Pfizer or receiving AstraZeneca. So there are some challenges here and I think that that’s the central one at the moment, this dialogue around Pfizer and AstraZeneca. That’s my last slide so I’ll stop there. And once again, thanks for the opportunity to be here and to talk with you today.

EMMA KING: Thank you so much, Ben we’ve got lots of questions coming through. I might just throw to you one because it relates to your last point and it’s from Julie, who said that her husband had quite severe side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccination, the first dose. Is he likely to experience the same in respect to the second?

BEN COWIE: So great question. And look, let me start by saying the best person to ask for personal health advice is your doctor or your healthcare provider, and really going and having a chat with your GP is the best idea here. It really depends on the nature of the side effects that were experienced. There are, from any vaccine, expected adverse events. Things like fatigue, headache, local pain in the site of the vaccination. That’s the only one I got after my AstraZeneca vaccine, and sometimes fevers and chills. And they can be quite significant.

We know that around 20% of people following AstraZeneca vaccine after the first dose found that it either interfered with their work the next day or with their activities, their usual daily activities. So they can be significant, but they are expected. What is different about the AstraZeneca vaccine is those side effects that happen usually in the two or three days after vaccination are significantly less after the second dose. And that’s the opposite for the Pfizer vaccine where people have more side effects after their secondaries. It’s interesting. But if it’s that sort of side effect expected side effects following immunisation, then on average they are better the second time round.

EMMA KING: Thank you, and I’ve got another question from Bruce in terms, if I take my elderly dad to one of the mass vaccination centres, can I stay with him the whole way or will I need to leave him at some point in the process?

BEN COWIE: People can have support people to attend the vaccination sites. That’s absolutely fine.

EMMA KING: Fantastic, thank you. I think you’ve answered this question actually in your presentation, but I’ll just touch on it ’cause it was one of the questions put through earlier in terms of if I work at a disability service and I’m in category 1A but I still don’t have my vaccine yet, what should I do?

BEN COWIE: So it really does come down to your age at this point in time. So Minister Foley yesterday announced that our high throughput centres those three that I’ve mentioned, the exhibition building, the convention centre and the Ford factory, and they will be joined by more in coming days, that any eligible person can receive AstraZeneca there. And that includes people who up until now had been really the focus of the Commonwealth vaccination programme, including aged care and disability care workers in residential settings. So we would welcome anyone who’s over the age of 50 or if you’re under the age of 50 and are happy to consider getting AstraZeneca following discussion of the risks and benefits, we would welcome you at our high throughput sites. For people under the age of 50, who are choosing to receive Pfizer vaccine that is now significantly more complicated. We will be providing Pfizer through our hospital immunisation hubs for people aged under 50 years. But that is going to take longer because of the significant supply constraints with Pfizer vaccine. And we’ll be providing more information on how particularly 1A and 1B workers can access Pfizer through those hubs in the coming days.

EMMA KING: Thanks Ben, and we’ve had quite a few questions coming through both before today and also today as well in terms of, I guess, the message to people over 50. And I think there’s been quite a few people coming and saying, ‘Look, I’m 51 or 52’, and you’ve got this magic threshold of 50. They’re still worried about the AstraZeneca vaccine. What’s your message there?

BEN COWIE: So, there’s a few layers on which I would discuss that. Look, I totally understand people’s concerns and I totally get that people have questions, that’s really healthy. And I think it’s really good that people are considering the risks and benefits at their individual level. I’m not quite 50. I’m not far shy of it, but I’m not quite 50 and I got the AstraZeneca vaccine, and I think a significant number of people under the age of 50, are continuing to choose to receive AstraZeneca vaccine. That magic cutoff, you’re absolutely right. It’s a line in the sand, it’s not based on there’s risk below 50 and zero risk after 50. Whenever these sort of thresholds are determined it’s about the balance of risk and benefit. We know that the risk of serious adverse outcomes of COVID-19 increases with each decade in age and it’s not, again, it’s not a hard cut off. It increases with every increasing decade of age. It seems at this stage that the risks of these very rare but serious side effect are particularly under the age of 50 and all cases in Australia, for instance that have been potentially associated with AstraZeneca vaccine have been aged under 50 years. So it really is about making that call.

Can I make one other point? This situation is different in Australia than the vast majority of countries because we’re not in the middle of a wave of the pandemic which is resulting in hundreds, thousands of deaths every day, and a lot of the other countries are. And so it makes this risk benefit equation more complicated. There’s no question. But if we were to be in the situation like Victoria was last year in the second wave and we all hope obviously, and we’re all going to work so hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, but if we had the same level of transmission in the community, the benefit of vaccination would exceed the risk of this clotting problem all the way down to people aged 18 and over. So it really won’t take much for that risk benefit to be very different. And that’s what we’re facing here is trying to balance the rare but serious risk of this disorder versus the risks of community of having low levels of immunity and therefore a greater chance of ongoing COVID transmission as we head into winter. It’s a difficult thing to do on a public health level and it’s a difficult thing to do on an individual choice level but that’s the guidance we’ve got and that’s what we’re trying to put into place.

EMMA KING: Thank you, I think this next question might go to one in terms when you’re saying, consult your GP but we’ve had a question coming around saying, look if you’re over 50, you’ve got a history of blood clots and you’re on blood thinners, is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?

BEN COWIE: So the advice again from ATAGI is that really the only contra-indications to the AstraZeneca vaccine over the age of 50, apart from a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction to AstraZeneca vaccine or to one of the ingredients in it. If we’re thinking about this syndrome the contra-indications or the people who should not receive AstraZeneca are firstly people with a history of that specific type of clotting in the brain. So cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, which is exceedingly rare. Or people with a rare side effect from a blood thinning agent called Heparin which causes the platelet count to drop very profoundly. It’s called HITS or heparin induced thrombocytopenia, HITS. And those are the groups who ATAGI are recommending not to receive AstraZeneca. So yes, indeed, please have a chat with your GP but at this point in time, other forms of clotting or being on an anticoagulant drug are not contra-indications to AstraZeneca.

EMMA KING: Thank you, that’s really helpful. I’ve had another question, so I’ll just come back to the groups that you had at the beginning which was the 1A, 1B et cetera. A question about what group do family violence refuge and support workers fall under.

BEN COWIE: So I might have to take that one on notice. So certainly, there’s a range of support groups that have been put forward in the Commonwealth’s guidance and certainly people who provide care to individuals who are in the 1A or 1B categories are included, but I might come back to you with that specific example so we can give you an accurate response if that’s okay.

EMMA KING: That’s fantastic, thank you. In terms of another question here around saying, ‘My client doesn’t have a regular GP that they deal with’, in terms of looking at other options for GPs. I’m assuming going from the earlier slide that looks at areas such as community health, et cetera but would you mind touching on that a little more?

BEN COWIE: Yeah, for sure. So certainly as we’ve said, regular GP, or if you don’t have a regular GP, another GP who you can consult, community health centre, if you’re a patient of a hospital outpatient service and you’ve got an ongoing relationship with a health service these are all fantastic sources of information. Ideally it’s someone who knows you and who knows your health and who knows your situation, but if that’s not the case and if you can’t see another GP or attend your local community health centre, we certainly have a lot of trained immunizers. And for instance, at our high throughput centres we’ve got both expert nurses and doctors available to talk to people. The idea of those high volume centres is really as the name suggests to be able to give access to as many people as possible. But if you have no other obvious route of access to vaccination, we want to support you. And therefore attending those sites, you can discuss your own individual needs with a nurse or a doctor.

EMMA KING: Thank you. In terms of the vaccination, I guess, this is a specific question around the vaccination plans and approaches for people who are homeless, perhaps street-based community members affected by alcohol and drugs or mental illness and trauma. Are you able to touch a little bit more on the processes that have been put in place for people in those situations?

BEN COWIE: So look, absolutely. And I think as I said at the start of my presentation, Emma equity of access is a fundamental principle that we’re seeking to enshrine in the vaccination programme. So in part that involves ongoing partnership with groups such as HARA and other structures that have been set up to address the needs of people with unstable housing or uncertain housing throughout the course of the COVID pandemic. And continuing to ensure that those groups who have vulnerable accommodation situations are absolutely a target of our vaccination programme. So obviously the high throughput centres but our partnership with community health centres and particularly around mobile outreach, all of the public health units will have mobile outreach capacity as part of their offering as well. So this is not just something that’s a central Melbourne issue, it is something that we can ensure that as we identify priority groups in different areas that have lower degrees of access to existing vaccination options that we can try and tailor that to meet their needs. I think the one difficulty there that has been introduced since the ATAGI guidance is the need to offer Pfizer vaccine as the preferred vaccine to those aged under 50 years, and with the difficulties that the Pfizer vaccine brings in terms of storage and distribution that’s going to take some more work thinking about how that works with mobile offerings.

It’s not impossible by any means, but it’s going to take a bit more programmatic work to ensure that we can do that, but absolutely. And like the C-19 consortium who have already been up and running and vaccinating through those health centres are certainly looking at mobile options and particularly thinking about vulnerable populations.

EMMA KING: Thanks, Ben, that’s great. We’ve got a question from Gina around saying, ‘Given the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission, should I continue avoiding visiting my immune-suppressed mum even once she’s vaccinated because, you know I just don’t want her to get the disease?’

BEN COWIE: Yeah, so look, while we’re still building the evidence base here it is clear that these vaccines both Pfizer and AstraZeneca do prevent transmission to some degree. We’ve got increasing evidence for instance from healthcare worker surveillance in the United Kingdom that even asymptomatic infections when people are being swabbed every week regularly to see if they’ve got COVID, that is significantly reduced in vaccinated individuals, even after the first dose even when they have no symptoms. So it does block infection. And we also know that a vaccinated person even if they are infected in the short period after their first dose from about 12 days onwards they have less amount of viral shedding compared to someone who wasn’t vaccinated. So their infectiousness is less. So these vaccines do block transmission to a degree and they do prevent ongoing transmission. So that’s really important. The other point I’d like to make here is that if someone is either a paid or voluntary carer for a person who’s eligible for vaccination, then they too are eligible for vaccination. And so that additional element of protection if they are a carer as defined under the Commonwealth guidelines, then they too could be vaccinated, which adds to the protection of that vulnerable individual.

EMMA KING: And then just building from that as well ’cause that actually segues nicely into another question I had around volunteers who are sometimes working face-to-face with people. Do they fit into that same category as well? I know your definition around carers. Can you explain what happens in terms of volunteers who are working with people who are in vulnerable circumstances?

BEN COWIE: Yeah, so we certainly can, and I can again provide some more information on that. There’s some Commonwealth definitions that we can post through so people have got the actual written information in front of them because there is some differences depending on the type of care and voluntary or paid that is delivered and to whom. So we can make sure that those resources are available because the last thing I want to do is to mislead anyone. So we’ll provide links to that.

EMMA KING: Fantastic. In terms of another question, ‘We run a supported accommodation facility.’ ‘Are we able to take a group of our clients to a mass vaccination centre and is this advisable?’

BEN COWIE: So it really comes down to an individual decision. I guess, the high throughput centres or the high volume centres are really geared around people who ideally don’t have complicated needs, quite mobile, are able to provide informed consent for themselves obviously, when they come to the site. And eligible obviously for vaccination at the time. I think that model would probably be tested by a group of people attending, particularly if they’ve got differing needs, different ages, also differing abilities to provide informed consent on site. So what I would recommend there is if there’s a group and clearly the Commonwealth is still primarily responsible for delivery of vaccination in supported accommodation in residential disability settings the Victorian government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth on trying to improve the implementation for both residential aged care workers and disability workers and residents in Victoria. So we’re hoping that we’ll have some more information available in the coming days on that. My gut feeling would be that whilst I totally understand and greatly appreciate the enthusiasm of people to get their clients vaccinated, just my gut feeling is that that would test the ability of a high throughput centre to provide adequate service to those individuals. Perhaps something we could discuss a little bit further before that step was taken.

EMMA KING: Yes, and again this builds onto another question which I’ll just talk as well in terms of from NDS, National Disability Services , which is around how can disability service providers book for an outreach team to attend and deliver vaccination with individuals at a day centre, employment centre, et cetera who’d find it overwhelming to attend one of the larger vaccine sites? Just wanted you to touch on it the same to segue with the previous question as well.

BEN COWIE: Yeah, look, absolutely. And to reiterate that certainly for the residential setting that that’s still the Commonwealth running that who has responsibility for that centrally. We understand that there’s been and I think the Commonwealth have also mentioned that they would like to see that happening faster than it has been. We understand there’s some frustrations amongst residents and amongst those caring for them around the pace of the roll out particularly in the residential disability setting. And I know that we’re not just talking about residential services here, we’re talking about a broad offering and also the day residential, sorry, the day centres, et cetera, I guess. Yes, absolutely. The hubs have a regional coordination role and can help in those discussions around access for those groups in 1A and 1B, noting that again there is issues around Pfizer access and being able to ensure that Pfizer vaccines are available by choice for those under the age of 50.

The other thing that I would like to suggest is that, and this is certainly the Commonwealth have put this forward for some groups in their area of responsibility, is partnering with local general practise and finding out what options are available through those local practises. I think people who have got established healthcare relationships with their GPs, that gets around some of the concern and understandable hesitation at attending a big hospital or a site that you’ve never been to before. And so I think that partnership with local general practise is something that I’d really found all of these conversations in, but if for whatever reason that’s not a possibility, then yes, our hubs do have that regional coordinating function and can discuss other options as time goes by.

EMMA KING: Thank you, and again, probably leading on from the previous question around the Pfizer vaccine, we’ve had Lisa asking, ‘We’re looking for a clinic that provides the Pfizer vaccine.’ Is there an easy way to do this or will it involve them sort of phoning around?

BEN COWIE: Yeah, so for noting, really it’s only the hospital immunisation hubs who have Pfizer vaccine at this point in time. There is outreach from those to, for instance other health services in Victoria to vaccinate for example, 1A healthcare workers, emergency departments, COVID wards, et cetera, and to sites like hotel quarantine environments, to the airport, et cetera, really since the ATAGI advice was issued 11 days ago we’re doing a lot of work with our hubs and our local public health unit partners to think about how we can facilitate access to Pfizer for eligible people aged under 50 years. We will have more information available on that in coming days, but at this point in time I would basically advise against just ringing around different clinics ’cause essentially no general practises have access to Pfizer. And it’s really only those nine hubs in Victoria that are central locations for Pfizer to be rolled out from. So I think that would lead to a certain degree of frustration on the people making the calls when they ring around and can’t find anywhere other than the big hospitals. So we will have more information available in coming days and we get that this is a real priority.

EMMA KING: And thank you, ’cause I know a number of GPs also have been in contact saying they’re just inundated with the phones ringing off the hook as well so I think it’s really helpful to have that information. We’ve had another question around clarifying specific risks to the vaccine for women maybe looking for example, at women who might be on the pill or might be breastfeeding or IVF, those sorts of things as well.

BEN COWIE: Yeah. So I’ll answer that in two parts, if that’s okay, Emma. The first is about guidance around pregnancy and breastfeeding in general and then secondarily about the particular clotting concerns there. So firstly, both the vaccines have been advised as being safe in the setting of breastfeeding and in people who are either planning to or trying to get pregnant, noting that now for people under the age of 50, Pfizer is preferred. That adds that other dimension there because clearly there’s that age-based criteria and which applies to women who are breastfeeding and who are planning or trying to get pregnant.

For women who are currently pregnant, the advice is currently that vaccination is not routinely recommended. That’s not because we have evidence or concerns about specific safety issues in pregnancy it’s we just don’t have enough data to be able to say that it is categorically safe to do so. There has been a lot of pregnant women vaccinated overseas in countries where the pandemic is really causing a serious health problem clearly, and we’re waiting for further information on those cases so that we can provide more evidence-based advice. So in summary, for pregnant women not recommended routinely to receive any kind of vaccination and for women who are breastfeeding or who are planning to become pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it’s okay to get vaccinated and it’s considered safe, but noting the age preference for Pfizer and up to those aged under 50 years. In terms of the specific clotting issue, again sort of similar to the question before about someone who’s had previous, for instance, deep vein thrombosis in the leg or is on Warfarin or another anticoagulant for whatever reason, no specific evidence of increased risk in the groups that you mentioned of this very specific type of clotting. It does appear to be more common in females overseas but it’s certainly seen in males as well. And similarly, whilst it is more common significantly more common in people aged under 50 years and it has been exclusively people under 50 in Australia, that’s not the case overseas. And there have been older individuals who have experienced this very rare disorder. I do want to just come back again. It’s understandable that people have such a degree of concern and focus on this issue.

Can I just reiterate whilst it is a serious side effect, it is incredibly rare. We are talking about one in every 200,000 people vaccinated on average, whereas the risk of tragically losing one’s life on Australia’s roads is about 10 times that in any given year, it’s about one in 25,000. So it is really important that we understand these risks and we address them and we’re open about them. But I think for a lot of people, big numbers like one in 200,000 is hard to relate to but maybe thinking about that putting in perspective of, for instance, the number of people who lost their lives here in Victoria from COVID last year and thinking that if we had that sort of transmission in the community, again, the risk of vaccine is much, much less than the risk of even getting really sick from COVID-19.

EMMA KING: Thank you. Another question here as well, in terms of if I’m booked in for a vaccine and I become sick should I cancel my appointment?

BEN COWIE: Yeah, that’s a good question. So essentially the contra-indications to any vaccine not COVID but any vaccine, if someone’s got a fever, so a suspected infection and they have a fever they shouldn’t come forward to get vaccinated. Someone who’s got acute medical issue, of course, they should also not come forward and get vaccinated. If you’ve got a chronic background health issue that is just grumbling along that is not associated with any particular acute illness then it’s okay to come and get vaccinated. But really if you’ve got a fever or I should really say if you’ve got symptoms that could be consistent with COVID so fever or cough or respiratory symptoms, please don’t come and get vaccinated. You should isolate and get tested. But for other illnesses it’s as I’ve said previously.

EMMA KING: Thank you. And in terms of, if you’re attending a vaccination centre, do individuals have to, it goes actually to a question, do individuals have to provide proof of underlying conditions if they’re under 70 or is their word considered okay?

BEN COWIE: No, they do actually and that’s the case for anywhere. So if they’re attending their own GP, then the GPs medical records suffice in terms of that evidence. But if they’re attending somewhere else they will need either, for instance, the download or the transcript from their My Health record, or they might use a letter from their regular GP saying what their medical condition is ’cause it’s not any medical condition. There’s a list on the Commonwealth eligibility check-out of which medical conditions are eligible under 1B for vaccination. If someone can honestly not provide either for instance, a discharge summary from a hospital a letter from their GP, a download from their My Health record or any other documentary evidence, they can fill out an attestation form which is available on the Commonwealth eligibility checker where they basically attest that they have a medical condition that makes them eligible. So again, the eligibility checker which Mel is just very helpfully posted in the chat. I’m seeing Mel’s been working furiously in the background answering all the questions that I haven’t been able to. So the eligibility checker there is the place to go.

EMMA KING: Thank you, and just to shout out to Mel as well you’re doing an amazing job Mels. I keep seeing it flash across the screen. So a question here went, so if someone tested positive for COVID last year do they still need the vaccine?

BEN COWIE: Yes, they do. And in fact, we know that the immunity from COVID-19 is neither absolute nor does it last forever. We’ve seen second waves of infections amongst people who have previously been confirmed to have COVID-19 occurring overseas. So yes, please do get vaccinated against COVID-19 even if you’ve got documented evidence of having had it before.

EMMA KING: Thank you. If someone’s very against vaccines, should I try to reason with them or argue the facts with them or is this not a very effective technique?

BEN COWIE: Yeah, look, that’s a really interesting question and it really comes down to, well, a range of factors, I think. We know that on average and look, I think a lot of people are more concerned now than they were say a couple of weeks ago and that’s understandable. We understand that. But prior to this happening, it was pretty consistent that around 70% of the population were intending to be vaccinated, around 20% were uncertain. And those two varied, okay? So the uncertain people might go up and the people who are intending to get vaccinated went down and they varied. The people who really didn’t vary was those who were not intending to get vaccinated. They were stuck at around 10% and didn’t really budge.

We believe that there are some people who for reasons of their own irrespective of much else are committed to not get vaccinated. And I guess where we’re focusing a lot of our energy and attention is on that 20% of people who are uncertain. So if you feel comfortable talking to someone I think the strategy that I use when I’m discussing this with people who are uncertain is first of all to questions. To ask why they’re not intending to be vaccinated or ask what the concerns are and to explore where they come from. And if it’s something that I feel is amenable to discussion I never try and tell someone that they’re wrong of course, nor do I say, well, the facts and figures say this so therefore you’re not right. That’s not the way to approach it at all. I think having a discussion finding out what their perspectives are what their sources of information have been. And I think one other question to ask is have they had other vaccinations? And if it’s someone who’s happy to or has had other vaccines who are particularly concerned about the COVID vaccine that opens a point of discussion that can be explored. But honestly, this is a universal but a voluntary vaccination programme, no one has to get vaccinated. And by the same token no one I think should be forced to have the sense that their choice is being undermined, but providing information and I think providing not just facts and figures but narratives is going to be really important. Why people are choosing to be vaccinated, why they’re choosing it, what it means for them, how they feel about being vaccinated, that’s just as important evidence as numbers, statistics and facts.

EMMA KING: Yeah, thank you, and then a question’s just come through which I think is different but related. So I’ve heard this from a few places in terms of attitudes and feelings of young people as well. And we’ve had a question I’ll just read it out verbatim. ‘Young people are losing trust and confidence in the vaccine programme, as they will largely be vaccinated in the last phase of the rollout and are being recommended a vaccine that’s hard to access.’ ‘How should youth workers be communicating with young people about this?’

BEN COWIE: Yeah, it’s a really, really good question. And again, can I just put a personal perspective. If I was to have the choice again, so I had the choice to get AstraZeneca or Pfizer and I chose AstraZeneca for a variety of reasons.

For me personally, and I’m not saying this should be anyone else’s decision-making but for me personally, the risk and benefit was so much in favour. And by getting AstraZeneca, that means that there’s another dose of Pfizer available for a young person as we go forward. So I think that is also part of my own personal way of looking at this, that the more people who get AstraZeneca over the age of 50, the more doses of Pfizer which are very constrained, become available for people under the age of 50 who are eligible whether they are 1A or 1B or as we go forward. So that’s the first, and that’s just my own personal viewpoint, I’m not assuming that that should be anyone else’s. I think for young people, again, it’s perhaps a little bit alienating to hear these conversations about who’s going to get what right now when they see their time horizon as being quite distant. And I guess for young people who are eligible so whether they’re working in a 1A or 1B cohort or whether they have a medical condition for instance or a disability that makes them eligible for vaccination we really need to find ways of giving them choice. And if that’s Pfizer, then we need to get it to them and we need to find ways to facilitate that.

Despite the fact that most young people will have milder COVID-19 and on average will not get seriously ill with COVID-19, there are exceptions to that. And I looked after some in hospital last year and, you know, some people do get significantly unwell even quite young people with COVID-19. So I don’t know that I’ve answered the question. I think the principles are we need to follow the eligibility criteria because they’ve been established to guide us from a public health and clinical perspective. And so they’re trying to balance the risks versus the constrained supply that we’re facing. But I think finally that, that ultimate element of trying to use as much AstraZeneca as we can to protect those for whom either vaccine is preferred, and I’m thinking particularly people aged 50 and over, so that we have as much Pfizer to use as possible for people under 50, for whom it is preferred. And I think that that’s a principle that is going to be one that is occupying a lot of not just vaccine programme people, but in fact the general community as these conversations continue.

EMMA KING: Yeah, and it’s a good point, and I have to say one I haven’t heard before that makes you think about it, made me think about it anyway, in a bit of a different way as well. In terms of looking also about being able to report adverse effects, I’ve had a couple of questions come through around saying, well, how can the general community report adverse effects other than talking with their GP? And I understand from another question that’s come through that somewhere in the U S but I’m not familiar with it, you can report adverse effects. Just interested in your observations around that.

BEN COWIE: Sure, so there are a range of ways and we want people to have a number of different routes to inform about this. I think one of the concerns about the vaccines in general is that it would all be conducted in secret and things would be hushed up. Well, if there’s one thing that we can take from the conversations that have been happening in the media over the last couple of weeks it’s clearly that this is being transacted very openly and that these reports are made available to the public both by the TGA and discussed by ATAGI and that there’s no question I hope in anyone’s minds anymore, that anything’s being hidden because if you’re going to hide something, you know, we wouldn’t be having these conversations right now. And I think that’s important as we reassure people about the safety mechanisms that are in place. Secondly, for people who are vaccinated through our state services that are using the information system called CVMS, they get sent texts after their vaccination. I think it’s day three and day eight, and then further down the track to monitor what their symptoms are and to check on how they’re going. So we have that passive information feed coming in from that route as well. Yes, any medically attended adverse event needs to be reported to SafeVic here in Victoria which is a surveillance mechanism and safety monitoring for all vaccinations. And in addition, people can report their own side effects if they didn’t see a doctor either through SAEFVIC or to the TGA directly. So there’s a route of different ways people can notify but again, if you’re feeling side effects and you’re concerned about them, I would strongly recommend you make an appointment and catch up with your GP.

EMMA KING: Thanks, Ben, and I think in closing as well it was a nice personal question for you which you don’t need to answer but I think it shows the appreciation for the work you and your public health colleagues are doing which is actually a question for Ben. When do you get a holiday and where will you be going? I think we are all in awe of you and the broader public health team in terms of leading Victoria and leading the nation through this pandemic. The work that you’re doing is just phenomenal. So I think, there’s a couple of questions coming through actually saying, ‘We think you’ve earned your holiday about a million times over, and hopefully you get a chance for a break and a bit of time out as well.’ And I think that probably reflects the way that we’re all feeling. I know that you are back to back probably every day and just about all night in terms of the work you’re doing and yet you’re so generous in terms of being able to spend your time with us today and make sure that everyone is informed and knowledgeable as possible. So I just want to pass on my sincere thank you to you and the team that you’re working with. You’re fantastic to work with. You’re always incredibly generous in your time as you’ve been again today. And I know also how much it’s appreciated ’cause you’re just really straight in giving the answers and then going look, I don’t know, these things are changing. This is what we’re going to come back and say, so it’s very, very much appreciated. So I just wanted to pass on my sincere thanks and also say thanks to everyone who’s online ’cause we’ve had lots of comments coming along those lines as well. I want to say a huge thank you. I’m not sure… if there’s anything you wanted to say.

BEN COWIE: Well, I just thought that I’m really touched by that, thank you.

EMMA KING: Yeah, it’s as I said, a number of questions have come in along those lines and I think we’re in awe of the work that you do, and you look at it it’s interesting watching our public health professionals become the new rock stars really in terms of looking at leading the world and literally saving lives. So it’s phenomenal. Thank you.

BEN COWIE: Thank you. As long as you’re not talking about the fact I need a haircut, Emma, but thank you.

EMMA KING: Yeah, but you could take that as a compliment anyway.

BEN COWIE: Thank you so Much.

EMMA KING: Thank you. So a huge thank you to all of our presenters today. As I’ve just mentioned having Ben back online with us and Mel also from department of health, looking at every question that’s coming through and providing as much information as possible. Also to Melissa and Taboka from law firm Justitia, and to our Auslan interpreters as well. We’ve got Julie and Jinaya who are online and have been online through the whole presentation. So a huge shout out to both of you, we really appreciate it. And of course, to everyone who submitted questions to the public health team, you’re phenomenal. You always are. We love working with you and you’ve just been brilliant to work with. And the VCOSS team, everyone behind the scenes who works to make these events happen. We have hundreds of people register for every one and we also know they’re watched regularly afterwards. As we mentioned earlier, please feel free to share the webinar from today as far and wide as you want. We want appropriate, accurate information getting out as far as we possibly can. We know not everyone’s able to jump online at the time so feel free to share it. We will email it to you. You can share it after that as well and remember that everything will be fully captioned. It’s really important we make sure that all information can go to all members of our community. We will be running a third event in the Vaccinating Victoria briefing series, so do keep an eye out for that. And if you have any particular topics or series of questions that you’re particularly interested in, do let us know. We want to tailor these to the things that you want to know more about. So feel free to reach out, let us know we’d really welcome and appreciate any feedback that you’ve got. So I’d just like to finish by thanking everyone again and thanking all of you for joining us. Have a wonderful afternoon. Thanks everyone.

This video provides general information only. It is not a substitute for specific and formal legal advice. Presented in partnership with Justitia.

What's in this video?

These chapters are also marked on the YouTube video progress bar.

0:00​ Introduction
0:10​ Basic things you should know
2:00​ Employer’s rights to direct employees
5:26​ Employer’s OHS obligations
7:01​ Requiring staff vaccinations
13:51​ Abstaining from work with vaccine concerns
19:29​ Acting in good faith
21:12​ Liability if staff get sick post-vaccine
23:57​ Framing risk
25:29​ How to ask staff vaccination status
28:39​ Disciplining staff on vaccine issues
30:55​ Examples of mandatory vaccines
33:17​ Staff members’ right to privacy.
34:28​ Asking if staff have been vaccinated
35:08​ Liability for ‘unexpected outcomes’
38:38​ Obligations for volunteers and casuals
39:23​ Mandatory vaccinations currently
40:29​ Vaccine rights and work from home

Full transcript

Please check against delivery.

EMMA KING: Good morning and welcome to the second event in our Vaccinating Victoria briefing series. My name is Emma King. I’m the CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Service and it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome you here today. I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land and acknowledge that our meeting on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. And of course, to acknowledge that sovereignty was never stated.

The COVID-19 vaccination programme has been underway for several weeks now. More than 160,000 Victorians have being vaccinated and we clearly have a long way to go. Many of us still have lots of questions about the scheme and today we’re going to try and get you some answers. But some quick housekeeping to begin, today’s event is being recorded and fully captioned as well and it’ll be made available afterwards. We’ll send you an email when it’s ready. Please do feel free to share this information as far and wide as possible. It really is a priority for us to make sure that everyone has accurate information and as many people have it as is possible.

Today’s session is broken into two parts. Part one is around the vaccination rollout and about the workplace. Shortly, I’ll hand over to Melissa Scadden and Taboka Finn from the law firm, Justitia. They’ll run us through some of the key issues regarding how the immunisation rollout relates to employers and employees rights, responsibilities and obligations, your duty of care, workplace safety and so on. There is plenty to talk about. So to submit a question, just type in to the zoom Q and A box on your screen. We know in the last session that we ran, there was so many questions about workplace responsibility, so it’s great to have Melissa and Taboka joining us today as well.

And for part two, we’ll be joined by Professor Ben Cowie, a senior advisor to the Victoria’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. Ben will run us through all of the key information about the vaccine rollout including some new information that’s become available over the past 72 hours. And of course, we’ll take your questions. This session is scheduled to run until midday, we’re in no rush and there will be plenty of time for questions. To submit a question again, just use a Q and a box on your screen, I promise it’s really easy. And as per our last session, we’re going to aim to get through as many questions as we possibly can. I’ll now hand over to Melisa and Taboka who’ll take us up to about 11:00 AM with their session. Thank you.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Thanks Emma. And thanks to VCOSS for inviting us to speak on a topic that is very much front of mind for everyone at the moment. And certainly front of headlines. As with most aspects of the global pandemic, the speed at which multiple, effective vaccines have been developed and approved worldwide, as well as the scale of the rollout is truly unprecedented. And given what we’ve had to endure over the past year, the vaccine rollout is certainly something to be celebrated. But it also does have broader impacts that must be considered particularly in a workplace context. Under the federal government vaccination strategy, vaccination is voluntary. And so the government is relying on an educational campaign to encourage as many people in the Australian community to get vaccinated as possible. Now state and territory health agencies may make public health orders that require some workers to be vaccinated. For example, those considered to be working in high risk workplaces.

Now at the moment we’ve got Western Australia and Queensland who have either issued public health orders for certain industries or are in the process of doing so. But there are currently no laws or public health orders in Victoria that mandate vaccination in a particular industry or that specifically enable employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. So when employers are looking at vaccination in the context of their workplace, we must look to our existing employment and OHS laws. And the question that many are asking is under these laws, can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated or even are they obliged to require this in certain circumstances to comply with their OHS obligations? But before we launch into these rather vexed questions and of course the audience questions as well, I think it might be worth taking a step back and considering employers rights and obligations in this space more generally. So Tab, can you tell me a little bit about an employer’s rights to direct employees generally?

TABOKA FINN: Yes, so generally speaking, there’s a few important steps that employers will look to take before directing their employees. First, they’ll need to consider any relevant obligations under an employee’s employment contract or any applicable enterprise agreement or awards. And most people understand that they have entitlements and that employers have obligations under employment contracts but it’s sometimes less well understood that there can be additional obligations under enterprise agreements, which are documents that are negotiated between an employer and its employees or awards, which are legal documents that outline minimum conditions that apply to a range of industries and occupations. So employers will need to make sure that any direction that they are giving is consistent with those workplace obligations and also with any other policies that they may have that would impact these types of decisions.

Whether or not an employer can or should direct an employee, will also be impacted by obligations under the fair work act and anti-discrimination legislation and we’ll touch on all of that, I’ve no doubt. But assuming the direction is consistent with any of these obligations under contract, et cetera, then the real consideration comes down to whether the direction is a lawful and a reasonable direction. And Mel, I know we’re to talk about lawful and reasonable directions a bit in the questions but if an employer gives an employee a lawful and reasonable direction, then the employee must follow it. So broadly speaking a direction is lawful, if it complies with contracts, awards, agreements and other laws, which is one of the reasons employers will look to those things first and the natural flip side, I suppose, of this is that employees are not required to follow an instruction that is unlawful.

What is going to be the real sticky, the real tricky part will be what is reasonable. And what is going to be reasonable is difficult to determine. Employees will need to look and an employers will need to look at the specific facts and circumstances that apply to their organisation, to their workplace or their work force, that can be different sites involved, different groups of employees and also individual employees. So it can be a really complex set of factors, risks, considerations that need to be balanced in reaching that determination of what is reasonable for many directions and certainly for directions that we’re talking about today, in relation to the COVID vaccination. Part of that considerations matrix, we’ll be taking into account the health and safety obligations, both the employers’ health and safety obligations and also employees have health and safety obligations to themselves and to other employees.

So, that’s it in a nutshell but unfortunately there is no one answer for when a direction will be lawful and reasonable. It’s a determination that is made on a case by case basis and we’ll turn on as I mentioned before, those specific facts and circumstances and importantly for our discussion, the risks in the workplace.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Thanks Tab. So you’ve spoken about risks in the workplace. You spoke about the health and safety obligations. So I think before we actually launch into the vaccine related questions, it’s probably also worth reminding ourselves of what an employer’s obligation is to manage risks in the workplace under OHS legislation. And most of the obligations under the OHS act in Victoria are underpinned by this concept of what is reasonably practicable. Basically an employer has to take steps and measures that are so far as reasonably practicable in order to ensure the safety and health of its employees, contractors or other persons who may be in the workplace. Now obviously begs the question, what is reasonably practicable?

First of all, the legislation requires you to identify the nature of the hazards and the risks. And then you essentially have to look at the potential severity of these risks. Once you’ve assessed that, it’s in a case of looking at what are your means and methods of controlling those risks, what are the suitability of those options? How effective are they? So for example, the concept of the vaccine, is it available? Is it effective? Is it safe? Then the last consideration and it is only the last one is the reasonableness of the costs involved in controlling that risks. And it is worth noting at this point that the courts and the work health safety legislation have made it clear that cost is only a factor, if it is grossly disproportionate to the risks. So it’s not one of those easy outs by saying it’s too expensive, it must be evaluated against the risk. So, having covered off these underlying concepts, we can now I think turn to one of the million dollar questions, would it be a lawful and reasonable direction for an employer to require an employee to get vaccinated? What do you think Tab?

TABOKA FINN: Mel, you know I hate to give the answer that I’m about to give but the answer is it depends. And I hate it, I hate it as it comes out of my mouth but it really does. It’s going to depend on the individual facts and circumstances. And as such, it will be yes for some organisations, for some workplaces somewhat forces and it will be no for others. It will turn on what is going on in the workplace and those risks that the workplaces will be identifying. Part of the reasonableness factor will as you’ve mentioned, include considering whether requiring the vaccine is a reasonable practical step to take, to eliminate the health and safety risks in the workplace. And this is certainly top of mind for a lot of employers and a lot of employees but it’s not the only consideration. And depending on the workforce, it may not be reasonable to mandate in all circumstances.

Having given “it my depends” disclaimer and assuming it’s otherwise lawful, I’m also, Mel, going to give my general feel. And my general feel is that for workplaces where there is a high risk of getting or transmitting COVID, especially risks to transmitting to vulnerable people or people who can’t otherwise take some other precautions, then I think the matrix of considerations is going to fall on the side of a direction to mandate being reasonable. This may extend to workforces where there may be an increased risk once international travel truly kicks off again or where social distancing or other protective measures are just not possible.

For workforces in Australia at the moment where the risk of actually contracting or transmitting COVID is low, then my feel is that requiring the vaccination, which we must not forget is a medical procedure , will not be reasonable. And this would extend to workplaces that can adapt with more remote working, social distancing and those other protective measures. But this could all change, it’s a constantly changing area. So I’ll restate my initial caution, which is it really does depend. And it depends on that matrix of considerations.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Thanks Tab. And so, when you’re talking about this matrix of considerations, I think that as you’ve said, one of the key questions is whether or not it would be considered to be a reasonably practicable measure under the OHS legislation. So it almost is essentially, I suppose, whether or not it’s a step further. So not only can I require my employees to get vaccinated but do my OHS obligations require me to ensure that employees have been vaccinated? And so I think when we’re looking at that point, a really good starting point is looking at both the position of the Fair Work Ombudsman and of Safe Work Australia at the moment. Now they are both saying that deciding to mandate vaccinations in the workplace, does face a very high threshold because they’ve assessed the community risk and the workplace risks as quite low, generally. Because we must remember and obviously this does fluctuate, that we’ve got no community infections.

We’ve had no community infections in Victoria for quite some time. We do have 10 active cases but they’re relating to hotel quarantine. So at the moment Victoria is essentially COVID free. They’re the low level of restrictions we are currently enjoying, does demonstrate that the government considers the risks of catching and transmitting COVID in the general population to be very low. Now, if you look at the systems that workplaces or employers can use for controlling risks, we look at what’s called this hierarchy of controls. And at the highest level, you have controls that would eliminate a risk. You then work down through those controls to ones that might merely isolate it, that might substitute the risk with something else, that minimise the risk, et cetera. Now, vaccination is clearly a pretty high order control, that it would, if not eliminate, it would significantly reduce the risk of COVID. But when we look at how that relates to the current level of risk, the question is, is it too much? Is it too severe? Particularly when you have other controls that are effective and perhaps more proportionate. So we’ve got masks, social distancing, improved ventilation, as well as things like education campaigns, strong encouragement, et cetera. So certainly at the moment, the position of the Fair Work Ombudsman and Safe Work Australia and other regulators is that generally in workplaces, mandatory vaccines is too severe.

Now, if you look at the high risk workplaces, which is where Tab has been talking about, it may be more reasonable to do so. Many industry associations have still stopped short of suggesting that vaccines should be a mandatory requirement. And it certainly seems like hotel quarantine might be one of the main exceptions. But it’s really important to remember that this is a point in time assessment and it’s based on the severity of risk at the moment. Now, global infection rates of COVID are at record highs. We’re seeing many variants, which are causing quite a few problems. If we get more outbreaks in Victoria, in Australia, if international borders open, the risk of community infection may increase and other control methods may be no longer effective. And in those circumstances, certainly the highest order control might be justified. So effectively, the answer is at this stage, generally and it does vary in terms of workplaces and their might or high risk workplaces, doesn’t seem to be enough COVID in the community for the government to be suggesting that vaccinations become mandatory. But it’s really important that employers are regularly checking all the right sources, Ombudsman, Victorian health, Work Safe, Safe Work Australia, et cetera. Okay, you need to make sure you’re looking at them because they contain a lot of scientific factual information about the current state of the infection rates. And they come with the right recommendations and they are crucial for feeding into your own risk assessment. And it’s also really important that you’re consulting with your workforce at the moment. Okay, you need to be talking to them, understanding what the risks are in the workplace, what certain vulnerabilities you might have, as well as the approach your employees are taking to vaccines. So you need to know now whether or not an encouraging or an education campaign is going to be sufficient or if your risk assessment changes, and if the risk of catching COVID in the workplace increases, what challenges might you face if you want to try and achieve these high levels of vaccination in the workforce.

Now we have had some questions coming in. So what I think it might be a good one to start with, would be considering the question of whether or not, if a staff member does actually refuse to come to work because of vaccine concerns. So for example, that they’re concerned that their colleague hasn’t been vaccinated and therefore there might be a risk. Can an employer initiate disciplinary action?

TABOKA FINN: So there are going to be a range of reasons that employees refuse to be vaccinated. There will be those that refuse for medical reasons. Those that refuse based on an attribute protected by anti-discrimination laws for example, religious reasons, disability, pregnancy. Those that refuse because they broadly disagree or don’t believe in vaccinations and those that don’t have a specific reason but just don’t want to participate or potentially a bit wary. Employers are going to need to have sufficient information about the reasons for the refusal, in order to determine whether the direction is lawful and reasonable and the employee’s individual circumstances, will go into into that considerations matrix. Assuming the request for information is lawful and reasonable, which it’s likely to be to comply with the employer’s health and safety obligations, then they’ll gather sufficient information that they need. And I must say to be ware of privacy issues when collecting medical information in particular but for any type of personal information about employees, employers should be careful with that information.

Where an employee is refusing based on medical grounds and the employer has sufficient evidence about or information about those medical grounds to confirm that the vaccination may not be safe for them to take, then the employer will need to consider whether having the vaccination is an inherent requirement of the role and I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a minute, I want to talk about the other categories first. Where an employee is refusing on the basis of protected attributes under anti-discrimination laws, then there will be additional protections and as such additional consideration for employers. So for example, under the sex discrimination and the disability discrimination act, it’s unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of pregnancy is a good example and disability, for people who are pregnant or have a disability, a blanket rule mandating the vaccination is likely to be indirect discrimination under these acts. Broadly, indirect discrimination occurs when a person is required to comply with a general requirement, so there’s a requirement across the board, across the workforce to have the vaccination and they are unable to do so because of that protected attribute and it has the effect of disadvantaging them. So, a direction will not be indirect discrimination, if the requirement is reasonable in all the circumstances but the burden of proving that reasonableness will fall on the employer. So employers must consider if there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made for a person with a disability. And assuming they’ve taken all of this into account, the question then becomes again, is the vaccination and inherent requirement of the role?

The last two categories that I mentioned, so those that refuse because they broadly disagree and those that refuse not for a specific reason but just because they don’t want to participate or a bit wary. And we do have some anecdotal evidence from our clients who are conducting these initial discussions, these initial consultation is that most people fall into that last category, they’re just a bit wary at the moment. For these two categories, the question for the employer will still be, what are the inherent requirements of the role? And the reason I keep talking about this inherent requirements test is that, employees must be able to perform the inherent requirements of their job. This is the case even if the employee has a disability, if once the employer has considered all of the particular facts and circumstances that apply to the workforce, to the workplace, to the employee’s role and they decide that having the COVID vaccination is necessary for the employee to perform the inherent requirements of the role, then you could direct them to have the vaccination and assuming that they don’t follow that lawful and reasonable direction as we discussed, the full employees have an obligation to follow lawful and reasonable directions in that circumstance, then yes, the employer could take disciplinary action for a failure to comply with that reasonable and lawful direction. I must say though, this is very uncharted territory. There’s very little guidance from the Fair Work commission or from any of the courts.

There’s very little to go by to give some solid, some hardened, fast rules or get those bumper bars of the edges of what we’re talking about. So I definitely encourage any employers who are considering mandating vaccinations or certainly considering taking disciplinary action in particular, termination of employment, to get legal advice before they do so because it’s really all up in the air at the moment.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Thanks, Tab and in related to that is actually we’ve got a question from the audience saying, is there likely to be a future test case that will determine this reasonableness test for the COVID specifically? And could we be found to be unreasonable in retrospect, will it be okay if we act in good faith at the time? And I mean, it does just go to the fact that so much uncertainty, will there be test cases, will there be a future guidance? I’d say so in the meantime?

TABOKA FINN: Definitely yes, I certainly agree. I think this is a hot topic. There will be workforces or workplaces that do, down the track when the risks in Victoria are a bit higher, do potentially mandate and that’s where we’ll see some test cases coming out of that. But certainly in terms of, will you be judged harshly in the future? I think it really goes back to that and maybe we’ve not stressed it enough, Mel, but certainly our recommendation is talking to your workforce, talking to your employees, consulting, discussing, like everyone’s talking about this anyway. Employers should be out there saying, “This is what we’re thinking of doing. This is what we’re not thinking of doing.” And keeping those lines of communication open. It also helps address some of those wary concerns. Sometimes, you can let people know you’re taking other steps to ensure their safety in the workplace, things like that.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Absolutely and we should probably mention as well that there are obligations to consult under your OHS and the OHS act as well. So there’s quite strict obligations under section 35 of the OHS act. So important to make sure that you do keep talking, keep consulting and that assist in demonstrating that you have acted reasonably in the circumstances, even if the guidance does come out, that might put us off in a different direction. And I suppose related to that as well, Tab is that there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not there might be any liability for employers in certain circumstances. So for example, we’ve had one question. So does this mean that should we be prompted by our employer to have the COVID vaccine and we become unwell, are they liable?

TABOKA FINN: Yeah, look, it’s a good question. I’m not and we are not work cover experts, workers’ compensation experts, but I would say very broadly, the test is sort of the connection to the workplace, whether there’s sufficient connection there. And I would say if you were mandated and you were required to get it for your job, then I think it has that link to employment and link back to the employer. And there’s potentially workers’ compensation fallout from that and things for risks for employers of their premiums and things like that going up. I definitely think there are some risks in that area.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Yeah and I think also if you look at something where the other risks might be, so obviously with our OHS obligations, that there’s a question I suppose, of whether the regulator would prosecute. Now, I think that looking at it at the moment, given Safe Work Australia guidance and have the health authority guidance, I think that doesn’t look like Work Safe would prosecute, if you don’t mandate vaccines, for example. And certainly if you are just following the guidance and then a risk arises or occurs in the workplace or an employee, for example, would have fall ill in the workplace because you haven’t mandated. So let’s say you haven’t mandated vaccine and an employee does fall ill. I think it’s highly unlikely that would say any kind of Work Safe prosecution in those circumstances as well. The question would be though, has the employer taken other necessary steps to appropriate in terms of managing or controlling that risk? So do you have your COVID safe plan in place? So you ensuring social distancing, masks, sanitizer et cetera.

If you’re looking at sort of more common law, as if someone does actually, for example, catch COVID at work, there’s a question of whether or not you could prove negligence if looking at whether or not there’s a duty of care and has that duty have been been breached and certainly at the moment where we’ve got our risk, again, it comes back to that risk assessment, where the risk of catching COVID at the moment is pretty low, unless you haven’t complied with your other obligations in terms of managing COVID risks in the workplace, in accordance with the directions at the moment. It’s probably unlikely that an employee would be held negligent in the circumstances.

TABOKA FINN: And Mel, I’ve just seen a question here, which is one of the things we’re constantly talking about, which is it says here, “Given the current COVID-19 vaccinations do not prevent transmission, how will the risk be framed? And were constantly watching the stuff on transmission cause there is sort of my understanding, some evidence that having the vaccination impacts transmission but Ben speaking after us, better ask for him. But certainly, I think that is a real relevant consideration. So, at the outset we were sort of hearing that the vaccination was going to prevent transmission almost at all. That was almost the language we were sort of hearing in some of the headlines. And that obviously has a different feel for, if you have a workplace where you have vulnerable clients, if getting the vaccination stops you from transmitting at all, that’s a very different risk assessment, then I think you’re right. The current evidence is sort of pointing that it doesn’t impact transmission in that way at least, then it does change that risk assessment and that risk discussion.

MELISSA SCADDEN: That’s so important. Just keep on top of the actual, the national cabinet meeting today, talking about the vaccine rollout. So who knows we could get off this webinar and things may change, so it’s really important that we keep up to date there, I think. Another question we’ve got, “Has vaccination become mandatory for travelling into state? Not certainly not at this stage, we haven’t seen anything suggesting that that is the case. I’m interested in current approaches about asking staff if they have been vaccinated given it is private health information. Tab, what do we think about that?

TABOKA FINN: I think privacy is a big one for this. I mean, from an employment perspective, you can ask your staff for the relevant information that you need to make your decisions. But the collection of this information certainly raises privacy issues and employers need to consider whether the privacy act applies to the organisation. And even if it doesn’t, we would recommend adopting some of the best practise steps that you can have in place that ensures you collect, handle, use, store this information appropriately. The office of the Australian information commissioner has specific guidance on understanding privacy obligations to employees when it comes to COVID vaccinations. It’s fantastic. You can find it at oaic.gov.au or by simply Google OAC and privacy COVID privacy and that will bring up that document. But it’s really important for both employers who are covered by the privacy act and those that aren’t, making sure that you are not asking for information that you don’t really need or asking for information that is just a catch all in case, really being thoughtful in your communications, getting the information, only the information you need and then using it in ways that are appropriate and respectful and also comply with your privacy obligations.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Thanks Tab. So another question we’ve got is, “I manage a home support CHS programme workforce, with staff providing personal care support to aged.” I think in aged care, so it’s aged in private homes, excuse me. “We are concerned that clients will exclude our staff if they are not immunised. Does this change the risk for our organisation and consequently our ability to mandate vaccination in the workforce?” So I think Tab, this is probably looking more at that inherent requirements of the job pace.

TABOKA FINN: Yeah, it really is. And it’s sort of difficult to give you a blanket answer. But if you were having all of your clients stop allowing you to work for them because of the risks and the risks are real and you identify them and you can’t put in place other safety mechanisms, then it really does, Mel, you’re absolutely right. It comes down to looking at whether that is an inherent requirement of the role. And when I talk about inherent requirements, it’s probably important to clarify that inherent requirements is something more than just looking at a role description or just looking at what you’ve previously done. It really is delving down into and it’s kind of in the title, inherent, what is fundamental? What if you took it away, would make the job not the job anymore? So it may be in that circumstance, you need to look at if the job can be done in a different way. And if you can’t, whether having the COVID vaccination is ultimately going to be an inherent requirement of that role.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Excellent, thank you. We’ve had another question which I think sort of goes back to again whether or not you can discipline someone for refusing to come into work because others have not been vaccinated. So essentially from what you were saying and natural as that, it does very much depend again on various factors but certainly if it is a lawful and reasonable direction in the circumstances for them to come in and they’re refusing to do so, it could be reasonable to discipline but probably look at it being a bit of a last resort really and see what other things you could do.

TABOKA FINN: And I would generally be pretty sensitive at the moment, it’s understandable. I probably want to have a chat to them, get a bit more information about why they say it’s not safe to come in, even under the OHS laws they still have to the concern has to be real. So if you actually have a workplace where all of these other protections can be in place and it’s not a real risk, then maybe you could proceed down a bit more of a strict pathway asking them to come back in. But certainly I agree with you, Mel. I just, you know, it’s all a bit tricky at the moment but I’d want a bit more. I’d probably want a little bit more information about why they don’t want to come in and why they say it’s unsafe and really targeting whether it’s sort of a preference rather than a genuine concern about their health and safety.

MELISSA SCADDEN: And I think it’s also, as we say, having those conversations and perhaps being creative I mean, certainly 12 months ago would never have thought we could move people to working from home. And I do appreciate that many roles quite simply cannot be done remotely but we certainly found out last year that a lot more roles could be done remotely than we’d originally thought. So certainly let’s be creative, have some conversations with your employees to see if there are other ways that you can try and manage the risks, check whether or not there might be misunderstanding because there is a lot of incorrect information floating around there. So the educational piece is really important in these circumstances as well.

TABOKA FINN: I should lastly mention obviously, there are those workplace injury and work cover risks we mentioned before. If you determine that somebody needs to be in and they’ve said that they’re at higher risk or they don’t want to come in cause they’re at risk, those are going to be the other side of the risks that you’re thinking about.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Absolutely, a question of what are some examples where a vaccine is already a mandatory requirement for a role. So, sorry, go on Tab.

TABOKA FINN: No, no, no. So, I know, not the COVID vaccination, but in meat works is an industry where there are a number of vaccinations that are mandatory as part of the work. There are also some workforces which require things like the flu vaccine or have required things like the flu vaccination have been mandatory. I’m not aware of anywhere that’s any employers that have mandated COVID yet though. That’s I don’t know if, Mel, if you have a different view.

MELISSA SCADDEN: No, not that they haven’t necessarily mandated it. There’s certainly been some very strong encouragement, very firm encouragement but I haven’t heard of any across the board mandating yet. So, which is interesting to say but certainly again, as we say given the risk assessment, risk levels keep changing, it will be. Watch this space, I feel. Another question and is it not a safe assumption that if the government is not mandating this in high risk instances or workplaces and this, I think perhaps with this question is getting at is, basically given the government hasn’t mandated, how can we? And look, that’s a really good question. And certainly I think there are probably some industries or workplaces that are perhaps feeling a bit frustrated. They haven’t got some clear advice from the government. Look, I think ultimately what the government is saying that across the board, they’re not going to mandate it. They’re going to make it voluntary but they have in all of their material and all of their guidance, they have said that this, you still have to ensure you comply with your obligations and you still have to perform your own risk assessments in the workplace. And so they’re recognising that it will differ, it will depend. And, it’s really important if you’ve got your own obligations that we’ve spoken about and simply saying, “Well, the government hasn’t done it, so I don’t have to,” would be insufficient. You’ve still got to perform your own risk assessments.

TABOKA FINN: I agree with that, Mel. I think it’s good. You should definitely have turn of mind to it. It should definitely be part of your conversation but it’s not sufficient on its own because it doesn’t delve into the individual facts and circumstances that we’ve been talking about. Your workplace could be a unique butterfly and it needs its own process to go through.

That’s pretty nice.

MELISSA SCADDEN: So I’ve got a question about staff members’ right to privacy. “My organisation supports people living in the community with a disability. We have clients who have requested only staff vaccinated to work with them. And where does informing clients on whether a staff member has been vaccinated or not fit? It’s an interesting one.

TABOKA FINN: Oh, that’s a good question. I think that again is definitely my immediate reaction to that is you would not be able cause it’s private information of your employees. So I’d be really careful with how you do that. I’m trying to think of a practical solution though. Mel, you’d have to have some kind of communication where you ensured that there was safety stuff in place but certainly you couldn’t just tell your clients if a person was vaccinated or not without the employee’s consent. That’s private and sensitive health information.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Absolutely and I think that’s what it comes down to those, that there’s a consent. So have a chat with your employee and say, “Look, you know they want someone work back then just be working with them. Now, are you comfortable with us saying that you are vaccinated or alternatively, you’re not?” So then it becomes that separate conversation that we’ve already spoken about or whether they’re actually able to perform that role in those circumstances. “If an employer does not mandate vaccination for the workforce, is it reasonable to ask whether staff have been vaccinated?” And again, I think it’s going to that question of not whether or not you can, in fact ask for this information.

TABOKA FINN: And I think the same answer, look you can’t just go telling other employees about other employees’ personal, private, sensitive health information. There are some under the privacy act. And again, check that privacy note I mentioned. There are some abilities to do it with consent, for example, but I definitely wouldn’t be doing it as a matter of course.

MELISSA SCADDEN: We’ve got another question here that goes to employer liability which I think is something that’s probably at the forefront of many employees minds but they said, “Assuming or cautionary procedures taken an employee agrees to vaccinate,” so that it’s not a mandate, it’s an agreement as required, “what is the employer’s liability if unexpected outcome occurs?” So we’re talking about death after vaccinating, would it be covered by work pack cover et cetera?

TABOKA FINN: So with this, I mean, it’s going to be in terms of workers’ compensation. So I’m just thinking somebody does have an adverse reaction. You haven’t mandated it but you’ve encouraged it. I think maybe the link to the employment is a little bit less but I still think there’s a bit of a work cover risk there but you know it it’ll be the workers’ compensation authority that determines whether the injury or illness was adequately connected to employment. So again, a bit of that considered, it would be considered based on the individual circumstances.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Yeah and certainly I think if we go back to looking at whether or not there’d be some other liabilities. So if we look at terms of the regulatory perspective from Work Safe prosecution, if you’ve gone through a cautionary procedure, you’ve gone through all the other control measures, it is voluntary. So the employee, if it’s fully informed,

TABOKA FINN: Truly informed.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Truly fully,

TABOKA FINN: Voluntary.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Absolutely, I think it’d be pretty unlikely that you get a prosecution or indeed even any kind of liability at common law because I couldn’t really see the circumstances as described there where you could say that you’ve breached that duty of care, if you have ticked all those other boxes. Certainly most recently we’ve seen that there’s been and Ben probably about to speak to this better from shortly. But the AstraZeneca rollout was halted for waking Victoria, as they were trying to work through liability issues for doctors in terms of actually providing this vaccine when there might be these additional risks and that’s what they’ve been working through. So certainly I would be surprised in these circumstances, whether or not if you were following all the recommendations as they’re suggested in this question, that they would be any found to be any breach or liability there.

TABOKA FINN: And I mean, it’s a good point to note, Mel. It’s not actually the employer giving the vaccination, it’s through another entity doctor, so it sort of falls under that category.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Absolutely, yep, absolutely. “Will they be a guide for employers to develop the matrix of considerations?” So certainly there’s a lot of guys around a lot of stuff that’s coming out. I’d recommend looking at the Safe Work Australia and the Work Safe websites. There are regular new information coming out that talks about it and certainly it’s being updated quite frequently as well. So there is a lot of guidance as to how workplaces should do that. Also look at your industry associations who are also providing a lot of support to employers, as to how best to go through this matrix there. Okay. What about a situation where a client does not want to work with an un-vaccinated employee? Best practise to have another worker do the work with a client but this is not always possible in small organisations. And look, I think we might’ve touched on this as well, in terms of looking at what those inherent requirements of the role are and just talking. And as we’ve said, seeing with there’s other solutions there as well, I think would be a good one. I’m conscious that we are getting towards the 11 o’clock but certainly we’ll go through and see if we can answer some more of these faster questions. “Do these rules and obligations for employees apply equally to volunteers or ad hoc, casual staff, contractors, et cetera, for example, site visits by disability support workers?’ So from that note, my hedge nest perspective, yes, you owe these obligations to all these individuals that visit your work place. So it includes volunteers, casual staff, contractors, et cetera.

TABOKA FINN: And I suppose the key perspective is going to be your hedge nest perspective. But from a general employment perspective, it’s going to depend a little bit. Certainly casual staff would be covered, contractors are likely to be covered through your agreements. And volunteers are generally covered, especially if there’s an enterprise or award that applies.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Better time to slip them more in, we’ve got, “How does mandatory vaccinations currently work in relation to other types of vaccines? And in what way we expect things to be different with COVID vaccines?” And this is an interesting question because certainly we’ve seen comparisons to the flu vaccination, for example. There are certainly roles or industries where you must have a flu vaccination to notice of work. We’ve seen our no jab, no pay scheme in childcare. So it will be interesting to see how COVID is different to that, I think.

TABOKA FINN: And I think that the thing at the moment, Mel, and I definitely look away encouraging everyone that we speak to to start looking at these issues, be proactive, keep the matrix of considerations changes constantly. But the reality is actually at the moment, for employers, most employers, you’re not going to have access. So there’s a sort of a practical step in the way that’s preventing sort of mandating or even rolling out or even encouraging employees to get the vaccination. So that’s a bit of a side issue really at the moment while that that’s underway.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Definitely, now I’m waiting to see, I think we might have time for one more. “I’ve been employed since mid COVID and have completed all work from home. Would it be reasonable to mandate that I get the vaccine to come into the office if I can and have completed or work from home?” Another interesting one, we’re seeing a lot of people come back into work after working from home for a significant period of time. And there is that question about whether or not that can be required and how the vaccination plays in. And what do we think about that, Tab?

TABOKA FINN: Yeah, look, I suppose there’s two perspectives on this. Firstly, we do need to acknowledge that although everything has been changed and a lot more remote working and things like that at the moment that has really been in response to a very unusual circumstance being the pandemic. So it’s not the usual practise or it’s not your usual role, not the usual way that you work. And now that some of those restrictions originally the reason everyone had to work from home is it was government mandated. So those restrictions have obviously come off. So the reasons that your employer has to send you off to work remotely have, in Victoria, in Australia at the moment, more or less disappeared. So that’s kind of one side of it but I certainly agree with what you’re getting at, which is the nature of work has changed for a lot of roles and it may require people to re-look at what are really the inherent requirements. So I think Mel touched on this before. Certainly I have seen some roles that previously we thought part of the inherent requirements was being in the office because there wasn’t the ability to work at home. Various things have changed. There now is the ability to work at home. Perhaps actually being in the office is no longer an inherent requirement. If you really delve into what is required to perform that job. But certainly there are things that do require face-to-face interactions and do require to be in the workplace. So there may be inherent requirements that require you to come in, even if you have been working mostly or all remotely for a while.

MELISSA SCADDEN: And certainly I think, if in order for someone to come in and work in the workplace safely, the only way that you can comfortably do that is to mandate a vaccine is required them to have the vaccine and they can work effectively from home, allowing them to work from home I think would be more reasonably practicable kind of control order from that risk than requiring them to have the vaccine.

TABOKA FINN: Yep.

MELISSA SCADDEN: Excellent, now, Emma, I think we may have run out of time. We’re still got so many questions but hopefully we’ve managed to answer many of them.

EMMA KING: Melissa and Taboka, I cannot thank you both enough. That’s been a fantastic session and it’s really a sincere thanks to both of you and to Justitia overall, in terms of your support today as well. I can’t begin to thank you enough. I think you’ve got a beautiful double act going there and I know we are going to be back in touch with you because we have so many questions as you say in the Q and a section as well. I just want to say a significant thanks as well because in the last session that we ran, we had lots of employment questions and we just weren’t in a place to answer them. And it’s been fantastic to have a really significant part of today set aside to work through those questions. And as you’ve mentioned, it’s an ever-changing space. So I know we’re going to hold another one of these events. It would be fantastic if you can come back and I just want to thank you both for your generosity as well. It’s very much appreciated. So thank you for what’s been a fantastic session. I think we’ve all learned a lot and as you say, it’s a continually evolving space, so lots more to learn. So a huge thank you to both of you.

MELISSA SCADDEN: No problem. Thanks Emma, thanks for inviting us. We enjoyed it.

EMMA KING: Thank you, it was fantastic. Thanks so much. And also a reminder to everyone else, that we’re going to have a copy of this presentation made available on our website within a few days. We’ll send you the link as soon as it’s available as well. I’m sure you will all agree, lots of fantastic information in that session. And you know, as I said, our plan is to hold more of these sessions as well as more information becomes available as well. Justitia or I should say just Justitia, I keep mixing the name up slightly, so forgive me, have also produced a series of other blogs and other videos on this topic. And we’re going to share those with you as well because they’re fantastic. And I think they’re going to be a really great resource for all of you as well.

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