A Perth nurse who has worked in the healthcare sector for 17 years is willing to risk her job, family home and children’s private school education by refusing to comply with the West Australian government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
Kate*, who works in a private Perth setting and wished to remain anonymous for fear of the backlash, said having the choice to be vaccinated or not was more important to her than staying in the profession she loves.
The state government announced in early September that all WA healthcare workers will need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by November 1, and both doses within the following month.
Health Minister Roger Cook said on Sunday that while the government didn’t want to be heavy-handed in its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, it was a condition for anyone working in a hospital. “Ultimately they won’t be able to work in our hospital system … their registration may or may not be impacted, that’s not for me to say,” he said.
“All nurses, doctors, people who work in hospitals should understand the fundamental value of vaccines”
Premier Mark McGowan states, “Potentially there are other roles for them to play, but our mandatory vaccination regime applies equally to people working in Royal Street in the Department of Health’s head office as it does in our hospitals.”
Mr Cook refused to accept that health workers didn’t have a choice in the matter.
“It’s obviously disappointing that people who dedicate their lives to medical science choose to step away from that science just for the purposes of this particular vaccine,” he said. “Nurses, doctors right across the system in Perth and the rest of West Australia deliver medications every day of the week, multiple times a day, based upon the medical science that backs those medications. COVID-19 vaccines are just the same as any other.
Kate said she felt “pushed into a corner” by the Health Department, but she was standing by her decision to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19.
“I have chosen not to be pressured and coerced into doing something that might be harming myself. No one is taking liability. Everyone is immune to liability and the risk is on my shoulders and my family,” she said. “I’m devastated. I love my job, I don’t want to lose my job, I will fight it. If I do lose my job, we will lose the house, the car, private education for our children – we will lose everything.”
The Australian Federal Government advises that no part of the vaccine development process was rushed.
“The urgency of the global pandemic means that researchers and developers are prioritising the progress of COVID-19 vaccines. This has allowed countries to deliver safe and effective vaccines faster than has been done in the past,” it advises. “New technologies have helped scientists understand the coronavirus earlier and in great detail. This has allowed them to start working on vaccine design faster.”
Kate said if she was to get sick, she would get tested straight away and put safeguards in place to protect patients and herself. But Premier Mark McGowan said people in the health profession should understand the value of being vaccinated and insisted they all get jabbed.
“Health professionals need to get vaccinated, and all nurses, doctors, people who work in hospitals should understand the fundamental value of vaccines,” he said.
“If we didn’t have vaccines, people will still be dying of polio, of smallpox. Vaccines save lives, and nurses and doctors above all should understand that.”
Civil Liberties Australia vice president Rajan Venkataraman says, “While people should have the right to make choices about their bodies and their health, their choices have consequences,” he said. “No one has the right to endanger other people’s health through their decisions.”
Mr Venkataraman said people had the right to pursue other careers in Perth or other areas if they weren’t willing to follow the health and safety standards of their employer.
Original story found on the WA Today News website. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.
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