Aviation Workers ‘Must Not Be Forgotten’ for Vaccine: Airport Association CEO

December 16, 2020 Updated: January 20, 2021

Calls are growing to prioritise airline and quarantine workers for COVID-19 vaccinations to protect Australians from another wave of the CCP virus pandemic after a driver who chauffeurs international airline crew tested positive to COVID-19.

The Australian Airports Association (AAA) said the government should add aviation workers to those services that are a high priority for vaccination.

AAA Chief Executive James Goodwin said airport staff are frontline workers and face a higher risk for potential infection.

“We acknowledge health, emergency services workers and the vulnerable should be at the front of the queue, but aviation workers must not be forgotten in the rollout of Australia’s vaccination program,” Goodwin said.

He also noted that while all Australian airports have strict COVIDSafe protocols in place to help prevent the spread of the virus, multiple aviation jobs still necessitate that staff have direct contact with passengers.

“Airports are critical infrastructure and have been keeping international terminals open to help the government bring Australians home from overseas, highlighting the need for aviation workers to be prioritised for the vaccine,” Goodwin said.

The calls come after a van driver, who chauffeurs international airline crew to-and-from Sydney Airport, tested positive on Dec. 16. It is the state’s first case of community transmission since Dec. 3.

The driver attended a soccer match at Gannons Park in Peakhurst on Dec. 11. NSW Health advises people who were at the match to get tested immediately.

As the number of local transmissions remain low, concerns have shifted to border, airport, and quarantine staff who have the highest risk of acquiring and spreading the virus.

Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett said everyone with jobs that involve exposure to returned travellers and international visitors should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“What is paramount now is keeping the virus at the borders and out of the community,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The government has released an initial list of vaccination priority groups which include people: at increased risk of dying, increased risk of exposure, and working in critical services. This list is subject to change.

“There are no surprises, health and aged care workers and the elderly and vulnerable will be the first to gain access to a vaccine that’s deemed safe and effective,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

So far, the federal government has invested $3.3 billion to buy over 100 million doses of vaccines. These agreements include securing vaccines which are currently in phase three clinical trials.

The first batch of vaccines by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, and Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to arrive in Australia in early 2021.