Should COVID-19 vaccination of frontline healthcare workers be mandatory?

Dr Owen Bradfield1

1University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

COVID-19 vaccines are now being distributed and administered around the world. It is widely accepted that healthcare workers should have high priority. However, questions have been raised about what we ought to do if members of priority groups refuse vaccination. Using the case of influenza vaccination as a comparison, we know that coercive approaches to vaccination uptake effectively increase vaccination rates among healthcare workers and reduce patient morbidity if properly implemented. Using the principle of least restrictive alternative, we have developed an intervention ladder for COVID-19 policies vaccination among healthcare workers. We argue that healthcare workers refusing vaccination without a medical reason should be temporarily redeployed and, if their refusal persists after the redeployment period, eventually suspended, in order to reduce the risk to their colleagues and patients. This “conditional” policy is a compromise between entirely voluntary or entirely mandatory policies for healthcare workers, and is consistent with healthcare workers’ established professional, legal and ethical obligations to their patients and to society at large.


Dr Bradfield is a medical practitioner, health lawyer and experienced statutory decision-maker, who aspires to solve complex dilemmas at the intersection of medicine, ethics and the law. A graduate of Monash University’s pioneering Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Laws double degree programme with First Class Honours, he combines clinical practice and public health law research at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health with sessional appointments to the Suitability Panel and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Ethics Committees. He is also Chairperson of Victoria’s Patient Review Panel.

Recent Comments