Supporting vaccination, opposing 'living with COVID-19' push

Sue Bolton: Pro-union, pro-vax, anti-fascist
Sue Bolton: Pro-union, pro-vax, anti-fascist

These two resolutions lay out Socialist Alliance's position on some of the current issues related to dealing with COVID-19.

Supporting vaccination

[This resolution was adopted by the national executive on October 6.]

Socialist Alliance strongly supports vaccination as a public health measure. Vaccines should be free and easily available.

Making vaccines accessible also means providing paid time off work (including for casual workers) to get vaccinated and to deal with any side-effects.

The government needs to address people’s concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Misinformation being circulated online, predominantly from right-wing sources, means that there is still a significant minority of people who have questions or suspicions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Some are confused about who to believe.

Government health departments should work with grassroots organisations, including unions, to develop and fund campaigns that counter misinformation about vaccination.

In general, education and persuasion are more effective as measures for public health and workplace health and safety than relying on coercive mandates. Actions that compel people to vaccinate can turn some people who just have questions about the vaccine into anti-vax activists. Demonising those who are vaccine hesitant does not resolve vaccine hesitancy.

There are, however, certain work settings (especially during a phased opening up period) where vaccine mandates for workers may be warranted (e.g. for hospital or aged care staff) to provide protection for the public, people in their care and co-workers.

In such circumstances, a public health order is a necessary precondition for such a mandate, but such public health orders need to be adequately justified. They also need to be negotiated with workers' representatives, with sufficient time and priority access to vaccines given to these workers to ensure they can be vaccinated prior to the mandate coming in. Under no circumstances should employers be allowed to make vaccination a condition of employment.

In circumstances where a public health order mandates vaccination, workers who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated should not be forced out of work, but be redeployed to a role that does not place members of the public or co-workers at risk.

Rejecting the federal government's 'living with COVID-19' push

[This resolution was adopted by the national council on September 19.]

Socialist Alliance rejects the federal government’s “living with COVID-19” push because public health must come before private profit.

We support policies to minimise or prevent spread of the disease, to save as many lives as possible and to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

Even as we reach high levels of vaccination, traditional public health measures including testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, stay-at-home orders, physical distancing, and border restrictions will continue to be necessary (as foreshadowed in the Doherty modelling and from the experience of other countries).

COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, is a serious disease that still needs to be actively suppressed.

Stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and border restrictions must be governed by a health and compassionate approach. We oppose punitive over-policed lockdowns, and blaming individuals for catching or spreading the virus.

While we strongly support the need to vaccinate everyone by making access to vaccines easy, we are opposed to mandatory vaccinations (except where driven by public health orders).

For stay-at-home orders to be effective we need to:

  • Protect livelihoods with an income guarantee and job protection including guarantees against being sacked;
  • Have moratoriums on evictions, provide mortgage relief and pause rent payments;
  • Ensure essential workers are protected with adequate PPE and paid vaccination leave.

There is an urgent need to push for a big injection of federal and state funding into the public health care system, including mental health services.

This includes recruiting and training more health professionals (and increasing their pay and annual leave and keeping safe carer to patient ratios); expanding ambulance services; and creating more mass vaccination hubs and workplace vaccination programs. A public serum laboratory needs to be reestablished.