Nurses won’t be forced to vaccinate against coronavirus

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Canberra Health Services chief executive Bernadette McDonald talks to Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt about the COVID-19 phase 1A rollout. Photo: Andrew Mathieson

FRONTLINE nurses in the ACT are not at risk of losing their jobs in the pandemic should they oppose being forced to vaccinate against COVID-19.

The inoculations that were launched on Monday (February 22) will not be mandatory for the 4000 Canberra Health Services staff, chief executive Bernadette McDonald confirmed.

But the workers, who have been testing concerned Canberrans for coronavirus for nearly 12 months, could be coerced to take the jabs they are delivering out to the public.

“Most staff are booking themselves in, but we will also talk to staff that haven’t booked themselves in,” Ms McDonald said.

“As you would understand, we have only just started the booking process and we are just working our way through those 4000 staff.

“There is no compulsory (vaccination) as such – so we haven’t made the vaccine mandatory for our staff. But we will be having discussions with those staff because we don’t want them to have concerns.

“We want to understand what their concerns are as we would like to allay those concerns.”

Canberra Health Services had contacted its staff about being personally involved first in the the federal government’s phase 1A rollout.

The concerted push to vaccinate will also not restrict staff to working in some limited areas.

Ms McDonald said the organisation needs to “assess as we go forward” before making any hasty decisions.

“If we get covid-possible cases in particular areas, and we think staff are at risk and they haven’t had a vaccine, we will just have an assessment of that risk to those staff as we go forward,” she said.

“But as we have said before, our frontline defence, all of our infection prevention, control, precaution, everybody is really, really good, even better than they were before because of the pandemic.”

Ms McDonald skipped around the uneasy topic at a media conference, but early indications suggested that nurses would be frowned upon over not taking the vaccinations.

She said workers that are against the vaccination program would always have opportunities to rescind their ethical stance.

“We will go through the staff when we see that there is some hesitation and we will work through to assess when they do have it, but when they feel confident,” Ms McDonald said.

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