The prime minister has ruled out compensating employers or using federal public health orders to force workers to get vaccinated, saying it would amount to a mandatory vaccination program “on the sly”.
Announcing that the federal drug regulator has approved the Moderna vaccine, which will begin distribution next month, Morrison also pleaded with “angry” and “frustrated” Australians to stay the course during the current lockdowns.
The government has obtained 25 million doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine, including 10 million this year and 15 million booster shots next year.
John Skerritt of the Therapeutic Goods Administration said the government approved the vaccine for use in adults as a first step, and would then consider the company’s request for use in children as young as 12. years.
The latest vaccination campaign plan suggests a total of 10 million doses will be offered next month, rising to 15 minutes in October and 19 million in November.
While speaking about the vaccine rollout, Morrison said the phase-out phase must be successful before restrictions can be relaxed.
The call comes as the NSW government says it will lift some restrictions once the state hits a target of 6 million doses by the end of August, when around 50% of people will be vaccinated.
NSW recorded 283 new local cases on Monday, while the state’s lockdown was extended to Byron Bay and Tamworth over fears that travelers had spread the virus from Sydney.
“I know Australians are frustrated. I know they are fed up. I know they are angry. I know they want this to end and life to come back to where they knew it was, ”Morrison said.
“But what we need 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 in now, ”he said.
Morrison said in order for the country to move to the next phase of the current national plan when 70% of people are vaccinated, the current lockdowns must work. He said people had misunderstood the NSW government’s plans beyond a 50% vaccination rate, saying this would only see the state change its “phase measures. deletion “.
NSW, like all states, has supported reaching a 70% immunization target to move to phase B of the national plan. In this phase, called the “vaccine transition phase”, the authorities would aim to minimize serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 “with low-level restrictions”.
“I want us to go into this phase as strong as possible, so we have to attack right now. We have to move on, ”Morrison said.
“We have achieved what few countries have (and) we cannot throw it away now because of some impatience.”
The call comes after a Newspoll released on Monday showed the government trailing Labor 53-47 on a base preferred by both parties, with Morrison’s approval rating in negative territory and voters unhappy with his handling the pandemic for the first time.
As the country’s vaccination rate accelerates, the Prime Minister on Monday dismissed calls from employer groups for the government to help industry impose vaccination mandates, fearing they might be left in a vacuum legal without the support of public health orders.
The government supported mandatory vaccines for elderly care workers and quarantine workers, but Morrison said these would be the “only areas” of government intervention and he would not support vaccine mandates for the elderly. other industries.
He also ruled out the Commonwealth offering compensation to employers who have vaccinated their workforce, saying it would amount to the federal government approving mandatory vaccinations.
“The vaccination service is free and it is not compulsory. It is an important principle. We are not going to seek to stealthily impose a mandatory government vaccination program, ”Morrison said.
Innes Willox, of the Australian Industry Group, said he wanted the federal government to provide the same compensation to employers who have vaccinated “their volunteer workers in the workplace” as requested for healthcare workers.
“Compensation has nothing to do with compulsory vaccination, which is an entirely separate issue. This is to reduce the risk for employers who may still face a costly workplace claim, ”Willox said Monday.
“Employers are very keen to help speed up the vaccination effort in the workplace and an extension of the allowance for them would make this more attractive to many more employers.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar told Guardian Australia that “the best way to make workplace vaccines mandatory is through clear public health orders.”
“In the absence of a public health decree making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory, most employers are currently left in limbo and at the discretion of the courts when deciding whether they can legally require employees to be vaccinated, ”he said.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said unions would support public health orders, but also stressed that workers should have access to paid time off to get vaccinated and deal with any potential side effects – whether or not it is compulsory for them to be vaccinated. the vaccine or not.
“Our position has always been that if public health officials decide that the COVID-19 vaccine, or any vaccine, should be mandatory in a particular workforce, we will support that and work to ensure that all workers can get vaccinated without losing their paycheck, ”McManus said.
Labor spokesperson for health, Mark Butler, said Morrison needed to sit down with businesses and unions to “fix” the problems.
“There are complex problems to solve in the workplace. These problems simply will not go away.
“Scott Morrison should sit down now with business and unions to address these workplace vaccination issues, instead of once again claiming that everything is someone else’s responsibility. “
The latest vaccination rates show that 22.56% of people over 16 are now fully vaccinated, with a total of 13.72 million doses administered.