The prime minister has ruled out providing employers or using federal public health orders to force workers to get vaccinated, saying it would amount to a mandatory “sneak” vaccination program.
Announcing that the federal drug regulator approved the Moderna vaccine, which will begin shipping next month, Morrison also implored “angry” and “frustrated” Australians to stay the course during the current lockdowns.
The government has secured 25 million doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine, consisting of 10 million this year and 15 million booster injections next year.
John Skerritt of the Therapeutic Products Administration said the government had approved use of the vaccine in adults as a first step and would then consider the company’s request for use in children as young as 12.
The latest vaccine campaign plan suggests a total of 10 million doses will be offered next month, increasing to 15 minutes in October and 19 million in November.
While discussing the launch of the vaccine, Morrison said the suppression phase had to be successful before restrictions could be eased.
The call comes as the New South Wales government indicates it will lift some restrictions once the state reaches a target of 6 million doses by the end of August, when about 50% of people will be vaccinated.
On Monday, NSW recorded 283 new local cases, while the state lockdown extended to Byron Bay and Tamworth amid concerns that travelers had spread the virus from Sydney.
“I know Australians are frustrated. I know you guys are sick of it. I know they are angry. I know they want it to stop and for life to go back to where they knew it, ”Morrison said.
“But what we have to do now is recognize the reality of the challenge that lies ahead. None of us like it. None of us like to have restrictions. None of us like to have the situation we are experiencing now, ”he said.
Morrison said that for the country to move to the next phase of the current national plan when 70% of people are vaccinated, the current blockades had to work. He said people had misunderstood the NSW government’s plans beyond a 50% vaccination rate, saying that it would only see the state change its “suppression phase measures.”
New South Wales, like all states, has endorsed reaching a vaccination target of 70% to move to phase B of the national plan. In this phase, called the “vaccination transition phase,” authorities would aim to minimize serious illness, hospitalization, and mortality as a result of Covid-19 “with low-level restrictions.”
“I want us to get into that phase as strong as we can, so we have to move on right now. We have to move on, ”Morrison said.
“We have achieved what few countries have (and) we cannot throw it away now out of impatience.”
The appeal comes after a Newspoll published Monday showed the government trailing Labor 53-47 on a two-party preference basis, with Morrison’s approval rating in negative territory and voters unhappy with his managing the pandemic for the first time.
While the country’s vaccination rate accelerates, the prime minister on Monday dismissed calls from employer groups for the government to help the industry impose vaccination mandates, with concerns that they remain in legal limbo. without the backing of public health orders.
The government has supported mandatory vaccinations for the elderly care workforce and quarantine workers, but Morrison said these would be the “only areas” of government intervention and would not support vaccine mandates for other industries.
He also ruled out the ELA offering severance pay to employers who vaccinate their workforce, saying this would amount to the federal government endorsing mandatory vaccinations.
“The vaccination service is free and it is not compulsory. That is an important principle. We are not going to sneakily try to impose a mandatory vaccination program by the government, ”Morrison said.
Innes Willox of the Australian Industry Group said she wanted the federal government to provide the same compensation to employers who vaccinated “their willing workers in the workplace” that it applies to healthcare workers.
“The compensation has nothing to do with the vaccine obligation, which is a completely separate issue. It’s about reducing risk for employers who may still face a costly workplace claim, ”Willox said Monday.
“Employers are very interested in helping accelerate the workplace vaccination effort and an extension of compensation would make it more attractive to many more employers.”
The Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew McKellar, told Guardian Australia that “the best way to enforce vaccinations in the workplace is through clear public health orders.”
“In the absence of a public health order requiring the Covid-19 vaccine, most employers are currently in limbo and at the whim of the courts when deciding whether they can legally require that employees be vaccinated,” he said.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus said unions would support public health orders, but also emphasized that workers must have access to paid leave to get vaccinated and deal with potential side effects, regardless of whether it is mandatory for them to get the vaccine or not.
“Our position has always been that if public health officials decide that the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, should be mandatory in a particular workforce, we will support it and work to ensure that all workers can be vaccinated without losing his salary, ”McManus said.
Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said Morrison needed to sit down with businesses and unions to “solve” the problems.
“There are complex problems to solve in the workplace. These problems are simply not going to go away.
“Scott Morrison should be sitting with companies and unions now to work on these workplace vaccination issues, rather than pretending once again that it’s all someone else’s responsibility.”
The latest vaccination rates show that 22.56% of people over the age of 16 are now fully vaccinated, with a total of 13.72 million doses administered.