'Not justified': Warning over mandatory vaccines for travelling Aussies

Experts have raised grave concerns about mandating Covid vaccines for international travel, warning the harms could outweigh the benefits.

It comes as the federal government prepares to trial vaccine passports and implement a new digital border pass which will provide authority for double-dosed Australians to fly overseas.

But a new study published by the Medical Journal of Australia has questioned the ethics of a population mandate.

(left) stock image of a woman walking to an airport terminal (right) stock image of an Australian passport with a boarding pass inside
A new study suggests vaccine passports may not be ethically justified. Source: Getty Images

“The benefits gained by mandates must be greater than the harms they are likely to cause. Such harms may include loss of trust in government or public health agencies and vaccination beyond the mandate, the risk of broad social divisions, and the risk of further entrenched disadvantage,” the study said.

The research by a string of leading health professionals suggested ongoing vaccine supply issues could result in segregation.

"Mandates cannot be ethically justifiable if they further entrench existing disadvantage, or if penalties will be experienced very differently by different populations," the study found.

"Supply of the Pfizer vaccine continues to be limited in Australia ... access problems continue to be reported.

"Government and employers will need to improve access for workers before a mandate is enforced."

A Doctor prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at District Hospital Pulwama, South of Srinagar.
The research warns ongoing vaccine supply issues could further entrench the disadvantaged. Source: Getty Images

It concluded mandatory vaccination for travel is “not justified” but “evidence of vaccination,

negative test or previous infection is reasonable to protect travellers and reduce


“Mandatory vaccination requires strong justification. If there are ways of achieving the same

outcomes using measures that are less restrictive, they should be meaningfully attempted.”

Vaccine passports taking off in Australia

The Morrison government is looking to launch vaccine passports for international travel within months, awarding a contract to international IT company Accenture for new digital passenger declarations (DPD).

View of airplane at the airport at sunrise. Source: Getty Images
The federal government is pressing ahead with developing a new digital border pass to allow fully vaccinated Australians to leave the country. Source: Getty Images

It’s understood the DPD will provide digital authority for fully vaccinated Australians to travel, replacing the physical Incoming Passenger Card and the digital COVID-19 Australian Travel Declaration form.

On Monday tourism minister Dan Tehan confirmed the system will allow Australians to use MyGov to upload proof of vaccination to a QR code linked to their passport.

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