(Update: For the purposes of this article, the term ‘anti-vaxxers’ refers to those who oppose compulsory COVID vaccination. This does not apply to anyone who cannot have the vaccine due to health reasons.)
As our economy and society settle in to the post-lockdown phase, proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status is becoming a requirement for most jobs and activities. Those staunchly opposed to the vaccine have been using increasingly sophisticated tactics to get around the laws and have created widespread community unrest – as evidenced by a speech in the Senate yesterday.
Overall, Australians have responded well to the call to get vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over are now double-jabbed, which represents just over 71 per cent of the total population.
But there remains a cohort that refuses to get vaccinated. Their reasoning ranges from relatively understandable concerns about the vaccine’s potential long-term effects to full-blown theories – from such ‘solid’ sources as TikTok – that the vaccine is a sinister method of mass population control.
There are very few legitimate medical exemptions for the COVID vaccine, and outside of these, the jab has proven to be safe and effective.
Now Services Australia – along with Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and the Pharmacy Guild – have warned in submissions to a parliamentary inquiry that some anti-vaxxers are resorting to using fake certificates and bribes and even stand-in vaccine recipients to get the jab.
Those organisations say some anti-vaxxers are using these tactics to avoid requirements from their employers and to escape public health laws including restrictions on retail shopping for the unvaccinated.
“Of particular concern is the employment of potentially unvaccinated aged care workers, which would create increased vulnerability for older persons who are consumers of aged care as well as creating risk for providers not meeting public health orders requiring workers to be vaccinated,” ACSA said in its submission.
“To maximise the protection of aged care consumers from COVID-19, the Australian government should introduce penalties for use of fraudulent certificates as a deterrence.”
President of the Victorian chapter of the Pharmacy Guild, Anthony Tassone, told The Age he had been offered $1000 by a patient to falsify her vaccine record.
A range of industries – not just aged care – now require proof of vaccination before people can return to work. These include healthcare, retail, construction and hospitality sectors.
And it’s not just high-contact roles, but also industries as varied as finance, IT, mining, arts and entertainment, manufacturing and even landscape gardening and agriculture.
Analysis of job advertisements shows a 12-fold increase in employers requiring full COVID-19 vaccination since May, and a three-fold increase in just the past three weeks.
More than half of those listings were in the healthcare sector, followed by administrative services (13 per cent), financial services (5 per cent), hospitality (4.3 per cent) and retail (3.4 per cent).
Services Australia says vaccine forgery is on the rise but that it already has harsh penalties in place. These include fines of up to $6660 if a vaccination provider breaches his or her obligations and $26,640 and two years in prison for “offences committed relating to protected information”.
In a speech in the Senate yesterday, Senator Jacquie Lambie – accusing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party of publicising her personal phone number – also attacked anti-vaxxers.
“You have freedom to make a choice, but those choices have consequences,” she said.
“You are choosing to do something that puts other people’s lives at risk and you will be held accountable for that choice.”
She said she supported people’s right to make a choice but that being vaccinated was a patriotic act.
“It’s called being a goddamn bloody adult! It’s putting others before yourself…
“Every Australian who’s been vaccinated is a hero. You have done your bit to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. That’s mateship. It’s who we are.”
What do you think of the Senator’s comments? Do you think the penalties are sufficient? And how diligently will they be enforced? Is checking vaccination certificates a lost cause? Why not have your say in the comments section below?
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