Feedback sought on potential vaccine mandate

Flinders to seek staff and student feedback on potential mandatory vaccination

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling is considering the introduction of mandatory vaccination for those attending Flinders campuses in 2022, and is seeking staff and student views.

Professor Stirling says the emergence of new variants and easing of restrictions means we must expect to live with COVID- 19 for the foreseeable future, with community transmission in SA and the NT already occurring.

He says the University recently surveyed staff and students about their vaccination status, thanking the thousands who responded, with the results showing a high level of vaccination.

“More than 93% of staff were already fully vaccinated, with a further 3% indicating that they will soon have their second dose. This demonstrates widespread recognition of the safety, efficacy and importance of vaccination and puts us well ahead of the general population” he says in a staff email.

“I am personally delighted that so many have taken positive action to protect themselves, their families and their communities from this deadly virus.

“However, nearly 2% of staff respondents indicated that they do not intend to be vaccinated, with the remaining 2% either being uncertain or preferring not to say.”

Professor Stirling says this gives cause for concern as there will be an inevitable increase in community transmission, meaning the risk to unvaccinated individuals can only be expected to grow.

“In that context and, having carefully considered the University’s responsibilities towards the health and safety of our staff, I am seriously considering the possibility of requiring staff be double vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine in order to be able to return to campus in the new year – except for those with a medical exemption.

“I recognise that some staff have reached the conclusion that they are opposed to COVID-19 vaccination. Others remain undecided and have concerns about the possibility of an adverse reaction to a vaccine. I further recognise that a vaccination mandate would be a serious impost that might have significant ramifications for those staff,” Professor Stirling says.

However he says the University has a duty of care towards all employees, including legal obligations to protect their health and safety at work. In the event   that a vaccine mandate is introduced then it will be done in the expectation that all staff would make themselves available for work by getting vaccinated.

“Should the University move to mandate vaccination then it would be my fervent hope that the small minority of unvaccinated staff would recognise that this measure was intended to protect their health and safety, and that this might give them sufficient cause to reconsider their position on vaccination,” he says.

“With 96% of staff already reporting that they have commenced or completed their vaccination schedule, then the vast majority of staff would already meet a future vaccination requirement.

Professor Stirling says he’s initiated a consultation process with staff to hear their views on the possibility of a vaccination mandate to protect the health and safety of all staff in the workplace, with feedback invited until close of business Thursday 9 December.

In parallel, the University is considering the position to be taken on vaccination requirements for students and has initiated a consultation with students, with feedback invited until close of business Monday 13 December.

“For clarity, no decision has been made and I shall consider consultation responses before reaching any decision on this important issue,” Professor Stirling says.

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