7 July 2021

Today, on your behalf, I took part in consultations with the Federal Treasurer and Lieutenant General Frewen of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce as part of Operation COVID Shield. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss how businesses can play a key role in delivering the vaccine to staff, their families, customers and the broader community.

I’d like to share with you some of the outcomes of that meeting and, as I will be involved in the Taskforce consultations on an ongoing basis, to seek your views on how we can move more quickly on the pathway to life and work beyond the COVID pandemic (ceo@aigroup.com.au).

Lieutenant General Frewen addressed some of the reasons for delays in the roll-out that included distribution and motivation. Distribution needs to be diversified and more convenience added to getting the vaccine. Motivation, or under-motivation is the major issue facing a bigger vaccine take-up largely due to vaccine hesitancy.

The pace of the roll-out will remain as it is now for July and August and in September new supplies will see the program supercharged. The most vulnerable remain the most important vaccine priority and the General called for patience.

Encouragement is seen by the Taskforce as being better than mandating vaccinations which would be difficult to enforce outside of employment in certain areas and situations. That position will not change.

I raised the issue of workplace-based vaccinations and my support for this was echoed by others at the meeting. I stressed that many businesses would like to host workplace-based vaccinations when supplies are available. Airports, shopping centres, industrial parks, clubs and pubs (especially in rural and regional Australia) would also be very worthwhile potential vaccination sites.
 
Based on feedback from many Ai Group members I raised the significant impediments around the lack of indemnity for companies and restrictive privacy rules that put workers at risk. These barriers need to be addressed before the roll-out of workplace-based vaccinations can begin. Workers Compensation does not provide appropriate or affordable protections for businesses against adverse vaccine reactions. Businesses need the same indemnities that the Government gives to itself, doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

The Taskforce understood this desire for indemnities, and it was discussed whether they could be applied federally, through the states or as a hybrid of both. Each state and territory has different requirements on who can administer vaccines and a federal model would make indemnity easier.

The Government would like to see businesses supporting the promotion of COVID vaccination, but is wary of incentivising too early before more supplies are available.

A major risk to success in the pathway out of COVID restrictions remains inconsistent state responses and continuing lockdowns despite higher levels of vaccinations. This is something we will continue to reinforce in our dealings with state and territory governments. A lot of business time is being wasted on different state government restrictions, unnecessary and heavy-handed approaches and confused guidance.

I will be involved in another session of the Taskforce consultations in the coming weeks when we are likely to hear details of a communications plan. This will include information that businesses will be able to distribute to staff around the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We will share this with you through our regular communication channels with members.

Thank you to those members who have been in touch with your views on the vaccine roll-out. Ahead of the next meeting I would again be interested in hearing your views (ceo@aigroup.com.au).

Stay safe and keep connected,
Innes Willox
Chief Executive – Ai Group

 

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