Sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate sparks debate among workforce

Mandurah resident Aleigha Nicole says the mandate could mean she loses her job, home and children. Photo: Claire Sadler.
Mandurah resident Aleigha Nicole says the mandate could mean she loses her job, home and children. Photo: Claire Sadler.

On Wednesday, the COVID-19 vaccine was mandated for 75 per cent of the West Australian workforce by the end of the year.

Employers will face a $100,000 fine if they are found to have employees who aren't vaccinated. Individual employees will face $20,000 fines.

This decision has drawn strong objections from people concerned about getting the jab while others believe the mandate is the only way out of the pandemic.

'Can't work in 75 per cent of workplaces'

Mandurah resident Aleigha Nicole, who works as an assistant store manager at an optometrist, doesn't want to get the vaccine due to previous health conditions.

"I've been very ill in the past - I completely lost my health when I was 22 as I had a host of health issues," she said.

"I'm not anti-vax at all but I'm very sensitive to medical treatments.

"I've had autoimmune diseases but now I've got my health to a great place."

When asked whether she could get an exemption, Ms Nicole said her health issues didn't fall under the WA government's bracket of exceptions.

According to the state government's website, limited permanent and temporary exemptions are available on medical grounds from the Australian Immunisation Register or on a limited and temporary basis from the Chief Health Officer.

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Ms Nicole, who is a single mum of two, said the mandate could mean she loses her job, home and children.

"I was in hysterics when the mandate was announced - I'm potentially about to lose my job, my home and my kids as a consequence to not getting the vaccine," she said.

"I've worked really hard to build my career to where I am today and I just got a full time job that I absolutely love.

"I've just lost the chance to work in 75 per cent of workplaces - that rules out a lot of future work for me.

As a New Zealand citizen, she is not eligible for Centrelink if she is not working.

"I'm a single mum on my own with no family support," Ms Nicole said.

Ms Nicole has until November 1 to get the first dose of a COVID-19 jab before losing her job.

This comes as hundreds of people stood outside of Perth's Dumas House to protest the sweeping mandate this week.

'Preparing WA for community transmission'

Those occupations, where the government said there was a high risk of virus transmission and vulnerability, must have had both vaccine doses by December 31.

By January 1, the vaccination mandate will swell massively.

Jabs will become mandatory for workers in supermarkets, grocery stores, and bakeries, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, post offices, hardware stores, childcare or family daycare schools or boarding schools, financial institutions, petrol stations, public and commercial transport hotel, and other accommodation facilities, and the building maintenance or construction industries. They will need to be fully vaccinated by the end of January.

A third group will be required to get vaccinated in the event of a lockdown.

"It is proportionate and reasonable and is aimed at preparing Western Australia safely for the inevitable community transmission," Premier Mark McGowan said.

"...we are giving vaccination a shot in the arm. We know the threat is ever-present. So much about this virus is unpredictable.

"WA's vaccination rate continues to climb, but people should not wait until the eleventh hour."

Pharmacist weighs in

Mandurah Central Pharmacy pharmacist Alan Hipper held a similar sentiment as he said the vaccine was currently the only way to protect the community.

Pharmacist Alan Hipper says to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're concerned about getting the vaccine. Photo: Supplied.

Pharmacist Alan Hipper says to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're concerned about getting the vaccine. Photo: Supplied.

"We need to be getting the vaccine to try to open the borders," he said.

"Also what's really important is the health of the elderly, if they catch COVID-19 it does tend to be more lethal for them."

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Mr Hipper said he understood people's hesitancy and encouraged people to express any concerns with a doctor or pharmacist beforehand.

"I can understand people being concerned but unfortunately this is the world we live in and this is the only way we can move forward," he said.

"I tell people I'm not here to them whether they should or shouldn't get the vaccine I'm just hear to explain the benefits of getting the jab - it's your decision, don't let other people influence you.

"So far we've had no one walk out the door since opening up vaccination bookings."

He also said Australia's health system was well equipped to deal with any rare adverse reactions.

"My whole family has been vaccinated. I got AstraZeneca, my wife and my eldest boy got Pfizer and my youngest kid had Moderna - we've had all three in my family and we're all still going well," he said.

"Moderna and Pfizer to some degree can cause inflammation of the heart muscle - our recommendation is as soon as your heart starts racing or your regular heartbeat changes, go to the hospital because it's easy to treat."

WA government looks to extend COVID-19 emergency powers

On Wednesday, a bill to extend the timeframe for COVID-19 response measures was also introduced to WA parliament.

The Omnibus Bill, which amends the Emergency Management Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 and the Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020, was first passed in April, 2020.

The amendments give authorised officers the power to direct a person to take any action reasonably necessary to prevent, control or abate risks associated with COVID-19.

This includes WA implementing its border arrangements, quarantine, contact tracing and physical distancing in line with health advice.

The new bill will seek to extend those provisions for another six months from January 4, 2022 to July 4, 2022.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate visit, wa.gov.au