Taking the Pulse of the Nation

Wave 40 (6-11 September 2021)

Locking out the unvaccinated – is there support for proof of vaccination?

As Australia moves towards achieving 70-80 percent vaccination coverage, attention turns to managing the suppression rather than the elimination of COVID-19.  Lockdowns will be increasingly unlikely, replaced with policies to minimise the spread of the virus.  One practice under discussion is to discourage, or perhaps even ban, the unvaccinated from participating in certain activities and events.

Results in wave 39, indicated that a clear majority of Australians (66-70 percent) agree that fully vaccinated people should be allowed to participate in a range of public events and activities without any restrictions.  Most Australians (57-68 percent) also agree to excluding unvaccinated people from participating in certain public events and activities, but a sizable proportion (between 16-23 percent) disagree with this proposed practice.

In the latest survey, we ask about requiring proof of vaccination.  On average, 57 percent of Australians agree that businesses have the right to deny someone services, and 50 percent agree that government should require businesses to deny service to customers if proof of vaccination is not provided. This support is shown across gender, ages, states, and employment status.  The survey also showed that support for the right of businesses to deny services is highly correlated with the view that government should enforce this practice.

Notwithstanding this support, one in four Australians disagree with businesses having the right to deny service to the unvaccinated, and also disagree with government requiring businesses to require proof of vaccination.  Not surprisingly, the majority of those who disagree come from respondents hesitant about the vaccine.

Mandatory vaccination and regular testing supported across all industries

In our last report, we indicated strong support from employees for compulsory vaccination and regular testing in the workplace and this support was held across gender, age groups and the states.

Figures 3 and 4 show the results by industry groups.  Mandatory vaccination and regular testing for COVID-19 are practices supported by employees across all industry groups, albeit there are a few industries where around 20 percent of its employees are not supportive.

Vaccine hesitancy in the workplace

Vaccine hesitancy has decreased in recent months—it is now at about 16 percent (with around 9 percent of the adult population unwilling to get vaccinated and 7 percent unsure about vaccination).  Although vaccine hesitancy now is almost half of what was noted in February 2021, it poses a challenge to achieving the 70-80 percent vaccination coverage milestone set by the government.

Vaccine hesitancy is slightly higher amongst employees (18 percent) compared to the rest of the adult population (15 percent).

Figure 5 shows the degree of vaccine hesitancy by industry groups (based on the two latest waves of survey data to increase the representation of the sample).  Across industries, vaccine hesitancy is highest in Construction and Utilities (35 percent) and in Wholesale Trade, Transport, Postal & Warehousing (29 percent).  This could, potentially, be a serious issue since workers in these industries often work across sites, possibly spreading the virus across regions.

The proportion of vaccinated employees in Information, Media & Telecommunications (20 percent) is also well below the average value of 43 percent (all employees with at least one dose).

*The survey contains responses from 1200 persons, aged 18 years and over. The sample is stratified by gender, age and location to be representative of the Australian population.

**This report is written by Professor Guay Lim and Dr Viet Nguyen.

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© The University of Melbourne – Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 2021. This work is copyright. The material may be reproduced and distributed for non-commercial purposes only, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source(s).