Health experts welcome lifting of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as ‘no substantive difference’ to transmission expected
A virologist says lifting vaccine mandates on public venues in Queensland is unlikely to substantively affect transmission rates, as the state prepares to ease its COVID-19 rules next week.
- From next Thursday, unvaccinated Queenslanders will be allowed into pubs, clubs and bars
- Virologist Dr Kirsty Short says the move brings the state in line with other jurisdictions
- Vaccine mandates have proved important to protecting the healthcare system amid the flu season and high case numbers
From April 14, people in Queensland will no longer need to prove they have had two doses of a vaccine to enter restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs.
Virologist and Associate Professor at the University of Queensland Kirsty Short said it was a complex scenario to analyse.
“These vaccinated mandates were implemented to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the community,” Dr Short said.
“What we now know with Omicron is two vaccinations are not ideal at reducing the transmission of the variant and we really need that booster dose.
“Because the vaccine mandates were focused on two doses of the vaccine, probably it’s not going to make a substantive difference to lift these mandates in more social settings.
“This probably brings us more in line with some international guidelines and what other countries are doing.”
But she said the mandates were still very important in places where there was a risk to more vulnerable people, such as in healthcare.
Queensland has been experiencing a second Omicron wave, which is set to peak this month.
“I think we have to be willing or ready with COVID-19 that we will have to adapt, if a new variant emerges or some other data emerges, we’ve got to be willing to adapt to that accordingly,” Dr Short said.
She said individual risk management remained important — such as getting a third booster dose.
Vaccine mandates key to protecting healthcare system
Dr Bav Manoharan from the Australian Medical Association Queensland said mandates had been a useful and effective public health measure.
“We’ve got to be conscious that those are around social venues and we’re very, very keen to see the measures in healthcare settings continue,” he said.
“The mandates have been very important in protecting our healthcare system.
“As we ease these, we need to make sure that if there is an increase in cases, that we can respond to that and we can reinstate some of those restrictions if need be.”
Dr Manoharan said case numbers were set to remain high until the end of April and flu season was also approaching.
“Whether [mandates are] removed now or removed in a months’ time, I think we’ve got to be cognisant that the healthcare system needs to be able to respond, especially as we’re heading into those colder months,” he said.
He said it was particularly important for vulnerable people in the community to have a booster shot.
“I think if you are a vulnerable member of the community, have an immunocompromised condition or a family member, or live with someone who has one of those conditions, you should always be wary,” Dr Manoharan said.
It comes as 62.4 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had a booster dose.
No more lost business
Owner of Spaghetti House restaurant in South Brisbane, Claire Parviz, said the vaccine mandates had caused some difficulty.
“People coming from interstate — we get an influx of interstate people — and we’re losing business because of the check-in,” she said.
“They’re like, ‘well I don’t have the app, I don’t want to get the app sorry, I’m from New South Wales and I’m only here for one night’… they have vax, that’s fine, but the check-in needs to go for sure.”
Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the government’s new position was one the LNP had advocated for in parliament just last week — and was “howled down” for.
“Lo and behold it is now government policy. We’d like to know, what has changed so drastically in a handful of days?” Mr Crisafulli told parliament.
“Is it the health advice that we haven’t seen? Well, on vaccination levels, the rate of vaccination in those five days has barely moved.
“Is it polling? Either way, there are some questions that we would like answered.”