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Experts challenge vaccination mandates in Victorian settings not involving the vulnerable

Australian epidemiologists have told an inquiry it is unclear why Victoria's double-dose COVID-19 vaccine mandates remain in some settings.

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, head of the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health, is unsure why Victoria's two-jab policy remains for industries not involving the vulnerable, saying the effect of vaccines on transmission wanes over time.

Dr Baxter told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the state's pandemic orders:

"(We've eliminated) density restrictions, mandatory mask wearing and recommendations for working at home ... those (measures) that we know will be effective against transmission."
"It's unclear why we're maintaining mandatory vaccines just for that."

Professor Catherine Bennett from Deakin University said the situation had fundamentally changed since two-dose worker vaccine mandates were considered justified and necessary:

"I don't think there's any dispute that (mandates) served a role at the time.
"It did make a difference in terms of our population-level response and our control, but I don't think there was ever going to be an argument - even before Omicron - for keeping the two-dose mandates in place."

Prof Baxter noted a significant number of Australians remained unprotected against the virus, including children under five and some immunocompromised people.

She said it is important to be cautious when it came to mandates in aged care, health care and disability settings, where patients and clients are particularly at risk.

Earlier, Burnet Institute's Professor Margaret Hellard told the inquiry authorities should still pursue measures to minimise cases and deaths, estimating Australia could post between 10,000 and 15,000 COVID-related deaths this year:

"If we in May had implemented ... simple measures to reduce transmission by 20 per cent, over 2000 Australian lives would be saved."

Australia reported more than 32,000 new COVID-19 cases and a further 72 virus-related deaths on Thursday.


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