A state government has announced a major U-turn in its Covid-19 vaccination policy.
Queensland Health workers will no longer be required to be vaccinated against Covid, Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman confirmed in a press conference on Friday.
The decision was made based on advice from chief health officer John Gerrard, who said the mandate was no longer necessary, according to Ms Fentiman.
About 1200 staff had been dismissed for refusing to get vaccinated, Ms Fentiman said, adding that possibly several hundred more had resigned over the issue.
Those who lost their jobs would not automatically get them back, they were warned.
“Anyone who either decided to resign or was terminated because they chose not to comply with the directive is certainly welcome to reapply,” Queensland Health director-general Michael Walsh said.
Mr Walsh confirmed there would be a mandatory consultation period with staff, and the decision to drop the vaccination mandate would likely be finalised by September 25.
The announcement prompted an angry reaction.
“There’s so much wrong with how long this has taken. Don’t expect to get those amazing workers back, you’ve hurt them in ways that are unforgivable,” one user wrote on Facebook.
But describing Covid as “no longer a public health emergency," Ms Fentiman said it was the right time to repeal the restrictions.
“Given the high vaccination rates in Queensland and the fact that we have high immunity across our population, the CHO has determined it is reasonable to consider removing the mandate,” Ms Fentiman said.
Despite this, acting chief health officer Catherine McDougall urged Queenslanders, particularly the elderly, to keep getting vaccinated.
“This is a serious disease that particularly risks our elderly and our vulnerable,” Dr McDougall said.
“Out of the 600 people over-65 hospitalised with Covid in July and August this year, 70 per cent were not up to date with their boosters.”
Vaccination against Covid is still a requirement for healthcare workers in Victoria and NSW.