Yesterday Dr Nick Coatsworth, wrote in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that it was time to end COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the corporate sector because there was no longer a public health rationale behind it and terminating employees because of their vaccination status would only hurt businesses and the economy.
Read the full article below.
“Zeb Jamrozik, who is now well known as Australia’s foremost infectious disease bioethicist, and colleagues wrote with regard to mandates: “There are worrying signs that current vaccine policies, rather than being science-based, are being driven by socio-political attitudes that reinforce segregation, stigmatisation and polarisation …”
via the AustralianFinancial Review…..
There is no longer a public health rationale for businesses terminating employees for failing to be vaccinated.
Like many health leaders during the pandemic, I’ve received my fair share of unsolicited communication.
While some of it belongs in the gutter, most of it has been genuine and thoughtful even when it has come from people who haven’t been vaccinated.
Increasingly, I’m contacted by Australians who have lost their jobs because of corporate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
To be clear, I was a supporter of vaccine mandates earlier in the pandemic. I do believe they served a function, particularly in the COVID-zero states where they assisted in overcoming natural human inertia towards getting vaccinated.
Times have now changed. When arguably our most COVID conservative government, the Andrews government in Victoria, is removing its vaccine mandates for critical industries, corporations will find it increasingly difficult to justify terminating employees for non-adherence to vaccine policy.
The ethics of vaccine mandates are tenuous at best.
Zeb Jamrozik, who is now well known as Australia’s foremost infectious disease bioethicist, and colleagues wrote with regard to mandates: “There are worrying signs that current vaccine policies, rather than being science-based, are being driven by socio-political attitudes that reinforce segregation, stigmatisation and polarisation …”
Presumably these are not cultural outcomes that would sit comfortably with chief executives and their group human resources executives.
Omicron changed things
Assuming there was a public health rationale that at some point outweighed the ethical flaws in corporate vaccine mandates, there were two critical events that have changed this balance.
First, we now accept that the vaccines do not reduce COVID-19 transmission. While early studies showed some blunting of transmission in vaccinated households, that effect was overwhelmed by the increased infectivity of omicron. Omicron effectively ended the workplace safety justification for mandates.
Second, the extremely high level of primary vaccination that Australia has achieved has blunted the impact of COVID-19 on our healthcare system, making further application of mandates of limited public health value.
If companies could previously claim that their mandates were an exercise of corporate social responsibility to limit the burden of disease, that argument is now discordant with reality. It is not working-age Australians who are finding themselves admitted to hospital with the virus.
Whilst the validity of vaccine mandates is on the wane, corporate leaders who choose to persist with them would do well to consider this problem: Can an employee previously infected with COVID-19 be terminated for being unvaccinated?
It is a common anti-vaxxer line that natural infection provides “superior immunity” to vaccine-induced immunity, and I would not contend that position here.
However, it is biologically plausible, and it has now been proved, that immunity acquired through infection provides at least equivalent and probably more long-lasting immunity than primary vaccination alone.