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Keep up the COVID-safety measures during vaccine rollout

We can’t afford to let our COVID-safe practices slip.
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Keep up the COVID-safety measures during vaccine rollout

Keep up the COVID-safety measures during vaccine rollout

11 February 2021

By Gaby Grammeno

The rollout of COVID vaccines across Australia will bring a sigh of relief to many, lifting the cloud of vulnerability off the people most at risk. But as the Government itself says, it’s not a silver bullet – we can’t afford to let our COVID-safe practices slip.

The vaccine

Considering the time it usually takes to develop a vaccine - often 10 to 15 years - it’s enormously impressive that barely a year after the pandemic began, millions of people are already being given the jab.
This telescoping of the usual timeframe may be a source of doubt and anxiety for some people, who understandably wonder whether the process has allowed enough time to spot any adverse effects of the COVID vaccination.
However, the evidence so far suggests that any side-effects are minor and don’t last long. The unprecedented speed of the process is not due to taking shortcuts with safety or effectiveness, but rather to the extraordinarily intensive, dedicated work of researchers around the world since the virus first appeared, and the close collaboration between scientists, researchers, manufacturers and distributors.

In Australia, there are strict requirements for testing and approving vaccines, including a rigorous assessment and approval processes for safety, quality and effectiveness.
We know vaccines work, that they save lives and prevent untold amounts of illness and suffering.

Thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been virtually eradicated, polio has disappeared from Australia and the effects of many other devastating diseases are no longer seen in this country.
Nevertheless, no vaccine is 100% effective, and as new variants of the virus emerge, vaccines will need to be ‘tweaked’ to match the new strains. It may be that annual or periodic repeat vaccinations are recommended, as for the flu.
The scrutiny of COVID vaccines won’t end with the rollout – a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance plan is in place to monitor ongoing safety, with procedures to promptly investigate any potential new safety issues.
Australia has its own vaccine manufacturing capacity, and the Government expects to be able to supply COVID-19 vaccines to the entire Australian population through CSL’s manufacturing plant in Melbourne.
So there is every reason to be confident that the benefits will greatly outweigh the risks and that the vaccine will help build herd immunity in the population, subject of course to its uptake in this country, how long the immunity will last and how much transmission is reduced.
That said, it’s way too early to dispense with the social distancing, extra cleaning and other measures you’ve adopted to stay safe.

WHS and the new COVID-safe normal

Employers have a duty under WHS laws to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of workers and others at the workplace. This duty extends to the COVID-19 pandemic - employers must eliminate, or if that is not possible, minimise, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
While restrictions will eventually ease, maintaining safety and getting the economy back on track means continuing to suppress the virus through collective action in the form of keeping up the COVID-safe community norms – physical distancing, good hygiene practices and downloading the COVIDSafe app.
For businesses, this also means planning for operation during the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and beyond, and understanding what this will mean for workplaces, employees and customers.

Employers have an important role to play in encouraging the take-up of vaccines and making it easy for workers to get vaccinated. The cooperation of workers in vaccination as a workplace safety measure is also vital. But a safe and effective vaccine will only be one part of keeping the community safe and healthy for the time being. The advice for people at workplaces is to continue to:
  • stay 1.5 metres away from other people whenever and wherever we can
  • maintain good hand washing and cough/sneeze hygiene
  • stay home when unwell and get tested if we have respiratory symptoms or fever
  • download the COVID-safe app so we can find the virus quickly
  • have COVID Safe plans for workplaces and businesses
  • follow the directives of your state or territory health agency, including any public health orders.

While Australia has come through the last year a great deal better than many other countries, the challenge is far from over.
More information on COVID vaccination and safety for workplaces is available on the website of Safe Work Australia.

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