The New South Wales government said it won’t mandate booster shots for healthcare workers, despite Victoria and South Australia having already done so and Australia likely to change its definition of “fully vaccinated”. 

In early January NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that any people who had to be double-vaxxed to do their jobs would soon have a triple-vax mandate too. Perrottet said it simply “makes sense”.

But on Thursday Hazzard told Guardian Australia he had spoken to the Health Services Union and the Nurses and Midwives’ Association and decided to change his mind.

“Certainly in early January, when the numbers were increasing dramatically off the back of Omicron and before the number of furloughed workers started dropping, as health minister I was certainly serious about moving towards a mandate position for the third dose,” he said.

“We’ve decided to take essentially a more encouraging and nurturing approach to getting them all [boosted], rather than forcing the issue and jumping in with mandates,” he said.

He said the union representatives told him frontline workers were “quite exhausted and tired” and the government would like to “work with” the healthcare workers.

He also said we should take comfort in the fact that they’re all double-vaxxed, and most workers understood they should probably be boosted.

“They are all double-vaccinated and chances are they will proceed to get a booster regardless. They’re health workers and the vast majority would understand the need to get the booster.”

We know how much they love us to take “personal responsibility“.

But Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes told the Guardian he had lobbied the government not to mandate a third dose.

“They’re health workers. They don’t need a ‘do this or else’. We’re all mature and we know what’s going on now. We have said, don’t drop another bomb on them and say, ‘Here, do this’.”

But in Australia and around the world some healthcare workers are calling for booster mandates.

Vic Premier Daniel Andrews has mandated boosters for all essential workers, not just healthcare workers, and said last week the requirement could be expanded to hospitality workers and patrons.

“This is not a two-dose thing (or) two doses and a bonus  — it is absolutely critical and essential,” Andrews said at last week’s national cabinet meeting.

SA has also mandated boosters for workers in healthcare, aged care, and people with disabilities.

Hazzard’s hesitation came as the national cabinet waited for official advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) about the definition of “fully vaccinated”.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday ATAGI is expected to recommend a third dose be required to meet the definition.

“I think it is more likely than not. That’s my expectation,” Hunt told 9News.

“We want everybody to be boosted in any event.”

That advice is expected in coming days, and could spell new limitations for the un-boosted.

Image: Getty Images / Jenny Evans