The University of Queensland has issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for anyone entering its campuses next year.
The university's directive said restrictions would apply to staff, students, volunteers, contractors and visitors aged over 16 who were attending a UQ site or facility from February 14, 2022.
Griffith University recently announced it would be mandatory for all students and staff to either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or to agree to be regularly tested, except for those with medical exemptions, from February 18.
Vaccines will be key measure, UQ says
In justifying its policy, UQ said it had a diverse community that attended a range of locations every day often in close settings.
"An outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a significant health risk to this community and substantially impact our teaching, research, and community engagement services," the university's directive said.
"While vaccines may not be able to prevent you from getting COVID-19, they do reduce the severity and duration of the illness, hospitalisation rates, and transmission."
People who had a valid medical exemption to having a COVID-19 vaccine would be exempt from the university's vaccine mandate.
"However, [exempt people] may not be able to access all UQ areas if their safety risk cannot be adequately managed or where Queensland government directions prevent this," the university's directive said.
There were some other exemptions, including for people seeking health care and emergencies.
A Queensland University of Technology spokesperson said it was encouraging staff and students to get vaccinated including the provision of leave and providing vaccines through the QUT medical centre.
Staff and students would be required to show evidence of vaccination to attend graduations and other venues on campus but the university had not issued a mandate.
"Should we propose to introduce a mandate or other measures more generally we would do so in consultation with staff," a spokesperson said.
The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) said it was not planning a general vaccine mandate and was continuing to consult its community about the issue.
"In line with government directives, only fully vaccinated patrons [except for those with medical exemptions] are able to dine in at the university's food service venues," a USQ spokesperson said.
USQ is requiring staff who work at or enter health clinics and any staff involved in activities that fall under public health orders to be fully vaccinated, except for those with medical exemptions.
Union 'disappointed' by lack of consistency
National Tertiary Education Union Queensland division secretary Michael McNally said the union was disappointed the state government had "not listened" to the union's calls to bring together employers, the union, and Queensland Health to create a procedure for all universities.
"Now you have three major metropolitan universities implementing different regimes and that will lead to chaos, confusion, and resentment," Mr McNally said.
He said having different approaches at different institutions could make it difficult for employers to enforce mandates or restrictions when a nearby university's policies were different.
Reignited calls for consistent approach
Mr McNally warned that leaving the decision to employers could mean the policies were implemented unevenly or unfairly.
"We would really like the state government to do what it's done for early childhood settings and schools and sit down with employers and unions and work out a consistent policy across universities," he said.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said under the COVID vaccine direction for workers in a high-risk setting, early childhood settings and schools are considered high risk because most students are not eligible to be vaccinated at this point in time or have only recently become eligible.
"Universities are not considered high-risk settings as the vast majority of university students are eligible for vaccination and have been for some time," they said.
"In fact, over 80 per cent of Queenslanders aged 16 to 29 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination and three-quarters are fully vaccinated."
COVID-19 vaccination requirements to attend UQ campuses, sites and facilities
From 14 February 2022, anyone attending UQ campuses, sites or facilities must be fully vaccinated – with an approved TGA vaccine – against COVID-19.
This will include:
- staff (including academic affiliates)
- controlled entities
- tenants, and
- visitors 16 years and older.
The procedure to support this requirement will be published online in mid-January 2022, and will support UQ’s Health, Safety and Wellness Policy.
UQ has a diverse community that attends our locations every day – often in close settings. An outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a significant health risk to this community and substantially impact our teaching, research and community engagement services.
While vaccines may not be able to prevent you from getting COVID-19, they do reduce the severity and duration of the illness, hospitalisation rates and transmission.
Vaccination will be a key measure for the University to minimise the impacts from the inevitable spread of COVID-19 next year.
Early January: Staff and students will receive an email requesting a declaration of their vaccination status via a secure online UQ portal to be completed as soon as possible – no later than 11.59pm Sunday 13 February 2022.
Early January: HR and Student Services teams available to provide staff and students with support and to answer questions they may have about the requirements.
Mid-January: UQ procedure that will support UQ’s Health, Safety and Wellness Policy will be published online.
How will this requirement be managed?
UQ staff and students will be required to declare their vaccination status via a secure online portal. The request to declare your vaccination status will be sent via email in early January 2022 and should be completed as soon as possible. The declaration must be completed by 11.59pm Sunday 13 February 2022.
Controlled entities, tenants and contractors will be required to provide assurances to firstname.lastname@example.org that their staff accessing UQ locations are fully vaccinated.
An audit process will verify declaration accuracy and compliance.
You may also be asked to show evidence of your vaccination status when entering UQ locations, similar to Queensland Government directions for hospitality and event venues.
UQ respects the privacy of individuals and will ensure that personal information is collected and managed in accordance with its Privacy Management Policy.
Who is exempt from UQ’s requirement?
Exemptions include people who are:
- under the age of 16
- attending UQ locations for the sole purpose of seeking health care
- responding to an emergency
- engaging in research trials where an exemption has been granted for the purposes of the trial or in a clinic setting
- performing urgent and essential health and safety work
- visitors that have limited or no interaction with UQ staff and students (incidental visitors).
I have a medical exemption: am I exempt from being vaccinated to attend UQ locations?
People with a valid medical exemption are exempt from the vaccination requirement to attend UQ locations.
However, they may not be able to access all UQ areas if their safety risk cannot be adequately managed or where Queensland Government directions prevent this.
The University will engage with individuals who have a valid medical exemption to assess the risk and to determine whether reasonably practicable alternative work or study practices can be implemented.
If a person selects I have a medical exemption on the UQ declaration, they will receive a follow up email from the University requesting them to provide evidence of the valid medical exemption.
Application for medical exemptions will require the person to see their treating medical practitioner for completion.
Only the following health professionals can authorise this form:
- General practice registrars on an approved 3GA training placement
- Public health physicians
- Infectious disease physicians
- Clinical immunologists
- GPs who are either vocationally registered or are a fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).
What will happen if I am not vaccinated by 14 February 2022?
Before this date, the University will engage with individual staff and students who are unable to comply with these requirements to consider whether reasonably practicable alternative work or study practices can be implemented.
Our HR division will liaise with staff members and their manager/supervisor. Where staff continue to refuse to comply and alternative work practices are not possible to fulfil the inherent requirements of their role, this may lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
Our Student Services team will liaise with students and their Faculty / Graduate School. For those students who indicate to us that they are not fully vaccinated by the required date, our priority will be to explore options such as online study, a program variation or change, part-time study, intermission, cross-institutional credit as well as counselling and other forms of pastoral support. Where alternative workplace or study practices cannot be implemented, and the student is required to attend a UQ location to undertake their studies, the student may need to consider their enrolment options.
People who do not comply with the vaccination requirement cannot attend UQ locations after 14 February 2022.
How long will the requirement be in place?
UQ will reassess the continuing need for the requirement based on our operating environment, community risk and advice from government.
What other measures will UQ put in place to protect staff and students?
UQ will continue to invest in risk mitigation strategies, which have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, and when required by government.
These measures include staying home if you are ill, adopting good hygiene practices and thorough cleaning processes, wearing masks as required, following occupant density requirements, testing, and improving building ventilation where required.
How can I get a vaccination?
Staff and students can book now with UQ Health Care at the Gordon Greenwood Building (Building 32) at St Lucia.
Appointments are available from 9.30am to 12.30pm Monday to Friday up until Friday 23 December 2021 and then from Monday 10 January 2022.
Alternatively, you can find a vaccine clinic closer to your location during the holidays on the Queensland Government website.
Where can I get advice about COVID-19 vaccinations?
We understand that some members of our community may be hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines. We recommend speaking with your GP or treating medical practitioner.
More information can be found on our UQ COVID-19 website.
Or watch the Know the facts series with UQ experts answering questions about vaccine options and safety, boosters, virus variants, herd and natural immunity, protecting children, pregnancy and fertility, and long COVID.