COVID vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory, MP Tony Pasin argues

He's had the vaccine, but others should have the choice to opt out, the federal MP says.

Everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19, federal MP Tony Pasin says, but no-one should be forced to do so.

The Member for Barker described himself as a “pro-vaxxer” who had rolled up his sleeve to get both doses of the vaccine himself.

He encouraged others to do the same.

But he said he was increasingly concerned that more and more Australians – including health care workers, residential aged care staff, SA Police from Monday and public school teachers from December 10 – were being ordered to get vaccinated.

“Living with COVID should not involve the need to flash our vaccination status around to get about our daily lives,” he said.

“Outside of an aged care setting, you should not need a vaccination to get a job, sit in a café or watch your favourite sporting team.

“I want a post-COVID society that does not impinge on our freedoms and a community that remains inclusive regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

“As a society we need to stop and think about ... what this means for our fundamental freedoms.”

Individuals should be free to choose, he said, and to deal with the consequences of their actions.

One of those consequences, announced by the state government on Monday, will be the introduction of shorter quarantine periods for vaccinated people who are exposed to COVID-19.

The change was among several introduced ahead of South Australia’s borders re-opening next Tuesday.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier warned everyone in South Australia to maintain social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and other preventative measures after November 23.

But asked whether vaccinations should be mandatory, she suggested she would leave that question up to employers.

“When we have choice in our society ... it’s more empowering,” she said.

“From a public health point of view, persuasion is often better than coercion.

“We have had a light touch throughout this pandemic in terms of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, but we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the people of South Australia and the businesses of South Australia.”

Local GPs have warned that the Murraylands could get its first serious taste of the pandemic in the coming weeks if the region’s low vaccination rate does not improve.

Just 63.5 per cent of Murray Bridge residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest figures, released on Monday.

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No jab, no pay or play

Despite the debate, vaccine mandates are not totally new in Australia.

Parents with children whose vaccinations are not up to date have been liable to lose certain tax benefits since 2016, under the so-called “no jab, no pay” rule introduced by former Social Services Minister, now Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

In South Australia, children have needed to be vaccinated to attend preschool, kindergarten or childcare since last year.

Internationally, travellers visiting certain countries may need to show they have been vaccinated against yellow fever, polio or meningococcal.

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