COVID-19 vaccine mandate for University of Queensland for staff, students in 2022
The University of Queensland has issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for anyone entering its campuses next year.
The university’s directive said restrictions would apply to staff, students, volunteers, contractors and visitors aged over 16 who were attending a UQ site or facility from February 14, 2022.
Griffith University recently announced it would be mandatory for all students and staff to either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or to agree to be regularly tested, except for those with medical exemptions, from February 18.
Vaccines will be key measure, UQ says
In justifying its policy, UQ said it had a diverse community that attended a range of locations every day often in close settings.
“An outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a significant health risk to this community and substantially impact our teaching, research, and community engagement services,” the university’s directive said.
“While vaccines may not be able to prevent you from getting COVID-19, they do reduce the severity and duration of the illness, hospitalisation rates, and transmission.”
People who had a valid medical exemption to having a COVID-19 vaccine would be exempt from the university’s vaccine mandate.
“However, [exempt people] may not be able to access all UQ areas if their safety risk cannot be adequately managed or where Queensland government directions prevent this,” the university’s directive said.
There were some other exemptions, including for people seeking health care and emergencies.
A Queensland University of Technology spokesperson said it was encouraging staff and students to get vaccinated including the provision of leave and providing vaccines through the QUT medical centre.
Staff and students would be required to show evidence of vaccination to attend graduations and other venues on campus but the university had not issued a mandate.
“Should we propose to introduce a mandate or other measures more generally we would do so in consultation with staff,” a spokesperson said.
The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) said it was not planning a general vaccine mandate and was continuing to consult its community about the issue.
“In line with government directives, only fully vaccinated patrons [except for those with medical exemptions] are able to dine in at the university’s food service venues,” a USQ spokesperson said.
USQ is requiring staff who work at or enter health clinics and any staff involved in activities that fall under public health orders to be fully vaccinated, except for those with medical exemptions.
Union ‘disappointed’ by lack of consistency
National Tertiary Education Union Queensland division secretary Michael McNally said the union was disappointed the state government had “not listened” to the union’s calls to bring together employers, the union, and Queensland Health to create a procedure for all universities.
“Now you have three major metropolitan universities implementing different regimes and that will lead to chaos, confusion, and resentment,” Mr McNally said.
He said having different approaches at different institutions could make it difficult for employers to enforce mandates or restrictions when a nearby university’s policies were different.
Reignited calls for consistent approach
Mr McNally warned that leaving the decision to employers could mean the policies were implemented unevenly or unfairly.
“We would really like the state government to do what it’s done for early childhood settings and schools and sit down with employers and unions and work out a consistent policy across universities,” he said.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said under the COVID vaccine direction for workers in a high-risk setting, early childhood settings and schools are considered high risk because most students are not eligible to be vaccinated at this point in time or have only recently become eligible.
“Universities are not considered high-risk settings as the vast majority of university students are eligible for vaccination and have been for some time,” they said.
“In fact, over 80 per cent of Queenslanders aged 16 to 29 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination and three-quarters are fully vaccinated.”
By Antonia O’Flaherty
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