With the current state of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia, is it time to consider a National Vaccine Compensation Scheme?
Published on June 10, 2021 by Joshua Dale
As the COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues across the country more and more stories are emerging of people experiencing significant side-effects including blood clotting conditions which have resulted in life-threatening situations and even death.
The issue now facing the Australian Government and various States and Territories across Australia is that there is now an increasing hesitation amongst various age groups that appear to be affected by the now known side-effects of the various vaccines. Whilst the statistical analysis may provide some level of comfort to medical practitioners, the current messaging certainly seems to be that there are inherent risks associated with being vaccinated against COVID-19. This will not only affect the continued rollout of the vaccine but no doubt will also affect decision-making around the reopening of borders which in turn will restrict people’s movements and continue to affect the Australian economy in a negative way.
Of most concern, it appears that the Federal and State and Territory governments are expecting employers to pick up the financial tab in circumstances where workers are incapable of working because of side-effects and or incapacity to work associated with the vaccine rollout. This in turn is placing an even further detrimental burden on employers, many of which continue to struggle with the lasting financial effects from the COVID-19 lockdowns throughout 2020 and which have continued on more targeted levels in 2021.
Now more than ever people who are considering the vaccine need to be assured not only as to the safety of the vaccine and their ongoing good health but also their financial security in circumstances where the worst were to happen and they were unfit work for a period of time as a result of COVID-19 vaccine.
Just as workers are now protected should they develop negative health impacts as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, equally they should be protected from any potential impact of the various vaccines.
In all of the circumstances it seems a prudent measure for either the Federal or State and Territory governments, or in conjunction with each other, to establish some type of temporary compensation scheme to ensure that there is financial protection to those undergoing and/or choosing to have the vaccine over the coming year and/or years if boosters and updated vaccination is required to protect against new and emerging variants of COVID-19. This added layer of protection would no doubt give some level of comfort to those who may be sitting on the fence or even have decided in the short term not to receive the vaccine. A recent survey found only 40% of Australians aged 50-69 said that they were willing to have either vaccine available.
In the absence of any such scheme it is no doubt inevitable that employers will continue to be punished economically as a result of the pandemic and would be most worthy of ongoing government support now that various job keeper and jobseeker schemes have ended. This could easily be addressed by a permanent and/or even a temporary amendment to the various Workers Compensation Acts in the states and territories across Australia. In particular in NSW, which is already a “no fault” scheme one would only need to prove an incapacity to work certified by a doctor’s certificate associated with a COVID-19 vaccine. This added level of support for employers and indeed for the protection of workers would be a very welcome response to what remains a very uncertain future both economically and from a health perspective and would mean that Australia would fall into line with other countries including the UK and the USA.