Dr Nick Coatsworth has said government officials, including himself, “got it wrong” when it came to supporting Covid vaccine mandates, and that future pandemics should prioritize convincing people to get vaccinated.
His comments come after the Queensland Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that police and ambulance workers in the state were unlawfully instructed to get vaccinated or face potential disciplinary action.
The court found that Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll did not adequately take into account human rights relevant to the decision to issue the vaccination mandate.
Former Department of Health director-general Dr. John Wakefield failed to prove that he issued the vaccination mandate under a term implied in employment agreements for ambulance service workers.
Dr Nick Coatsworth admitted that government officials, including himself, “got it wrong” when it came to promoting Covid vaccine mandates.
As a result, the court found both vaccination mandates “illegal” and of no effect.
Weighing in on the groundbreaking decision, Dr Coatsworth, Australia’s former deputy chief health officer during the pandemic, said he had to recognize his own role in the system that promotes vaccine mandates.
“We’re not wrong about promoting the vaccines, but we are wrong about the mandates, yes, I think we are wrong,” he told The Today Show on Wednesday.
‘And I think you can say that hindsight is 20/20. But hindsight gives us foresight. And if we have another pandemic, we should think carefully about whether vaccine mandates are justified.”
The infectious disease doctor was the face of the vaccine rollout and was a common appearance on Australian television during the Covid outbreak.
The Queensland Supreme Court ruled this week that police and ambulance workers in the state were unlawfully instructed to get vaccinated or face potential disciplinary action.
He was appointed as one of three new deputy chief medical officers under Brendan Murphy at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Dr. Coatsworth said Commissioner Carroll “did not pay any attention to the human rights implications” of vaccination mandates.
He said the Supreme Court’s decision could mean that some of the workers fired for not following the mandates could potentially get their jobs back.
“It could open the way to civil proceedings and damages against governments with human rights laws, which are Queensland, ACT and Victoria,” he said.
‘But the most important thing is that I think it opens up all the decisions that we, as senior health officials, as senior police and ambulance officials, make.
“Did we take into account the human rights of Australians when we made those decisions and to what extent did we balance them with human rights?”
The expert said that should a pandemic occur again, authorities should rely on convincing people to get vaccinated rather than enforcing mandates.
‘I think what we saw in New South Wales and Victoria was that high levels of vaccine coverage could be achieved without the mandates, and that was because people were really concerned and prepared to be informed about these vaccines.
“That’s the way to do it in the future.”
The Supreme Court also found that the vaccine instructions limited workers’ human rights because they had to undergo a medical procedure without full consent, but were reasonable in all the circumstances.
Chief Judge Administrator Glenn Martin said police and ambulance services were trying to prevent their employees from suffering infections, serious illnesses and life-changing health consequences.
“The balance between the importance of the purpose of the limitation and the importance of preserving the human right… is complicated by the fact that these instructions were given in what was, by any measure, an emergency,” he said.
More than 70 frontline workers in Queensland had taken legal action against the state government in three separate lawsuits.