Right to refuse COVID-19 vaccination, and refuse vaccinations in general, are topics of recent petitions tabled to Parliament
A group of 766 citizens have appealed to the government to allow employees the right to refuse COVID-19 vaccinations.
The petition calls for the “right to refuse any Covid-19 vaccines on ethical, moral or religious grounds”, referring to the development, testing or production of vaccines using aborted fetus cell lines.
“Employees would have the right to refuse any vaccine and thereby not risking losing their employment if they feel forced or that it goes against their conscience on ethical, moral or religious grounds,” they wrote.
The group called on the House of Representatives to mandate the right of refusal of any employee in Australia of any COVID-19 vaccine “and not risk losing their job”.
According to latest information from the Australian Department of Health, COVID-19 vaccination is not compulsory, although it is strongly supported.
“People, parents and carers maintain the right to choose whether to receive a vaccination,” said the government.
Safe Work Australia has stated that most employers will not need to make vaccination mandatory to comply with work health and safety laws.
A second petition signed by 545 citizens asked the House to legislate that no vaccination in Australia can be made compulsory and that that it become illegal to discriminate in any way, against people who refuse to vaccinate.
However the petition’s claim contains misinformation.
For example, it claims that the US spent approximately $4 billion during the last 12 months alone on compensation for vaccination side effects and that they are looking at doubling this allocation presumably because of the COVID-19 vaccination.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, around $4.5 billion in compensation has been awarded through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program between 1989 and 2021 – so over the life of the program, which is a period of more than 30 years.
Based on CDC data, from 2006 to 2018 over 3.7 billion doses of covered vaccines were distributed in the US. For petitions filed in this time period, 7,662 petitions were adjudicated by the Court, and of those 5,376 were compensated.
This means for every one million doses of vaccine that were distributed, approximately one individual was compensated.
The majority of compensated petitions were for incidents linked to the seasonal influenza vaccine, mainly related to instances of anaphylaxis, shoulder injury, vasovagal syncope and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The Australian Government has said it is not currently pursuing a no fault COVID-19 vaccine injury compensation scheme.
“Serious side effects are extremely rare. If you think you may be having an adverse reaction, you should seek immediate medical care,” it added.
The TGA is publishing a weekly safety report that includes data on received reports of suspected side effects or adverse events related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The most common adverse events reported for COVID-19 vaccines in the past week include headache, fever, muscle, pain, fatigue and nausea, with a reporting rate of 4.4 adverse events per 1000 doses.
An expert review has found no evidence of increased risk of anaphylaxis associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the European Medicines Agency has found the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots.
Health Minister Greg Hunt is yet to respond to either petition.
Last month, Minister Hunt received a petition requesting that hydroxychloroquine be made available over the counter.
Nearly 400 people had signed the petition, arguing that hydroxychloroquine is safe and can be used to effectively prevent and reduce the mortality rate of COVID-19.
Minister Hunt knocked back the request.
“In Australia, hydroxychloroquine has been assessed as a prescription only medicine because it is used for conditions that require the diagnosis and intervention from a medical practitioner,” he said in a response.
“It is important to be aware that hydroxychloroquine can have serious side effects, including cardiac toxicity (potentially leading to sudden heart attacks), irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar (potentially leading to coma).
“As such, it is appropriate for hydroxychloroquine to remain a prescription medicine,” said Minister Hunt.
“Based on the current available evidence, my Department strongly discourages the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19, unless the patient is enrolled in a clinical trial.”
A further petition this month signed by three citizens calls for the creation of an Australian Centre for Disease Control.
“Each decade of the 21st century has seen increasing numbers and severity of pandemic and epidemics in the world. The current Coronavirus COVID19 has demonstrated the danger they present to the Australian population,” wrote the signatories.
“We therefore ask the House to ensure that the federal government set up a properly constituted centre for disease control to ensure a coordinated national response to disease.”
One large petition signed by 9300 citizens calls for Medicare, or another public system, to cover costs of essential or primary dental care for all Australians.
A further March petition from 270 citizens notes concerns about doctor shortages in rural and regional Queensland.