Heads of Pfizer Australia have dismissed arguments that the vaccine mandates coerced Australians into getting vaccinated for COVID-19, saying they had a choice.
Appearing before an Australian senate inquiry into the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Pfizer Country Medical Director Dr. Krishan Thiru and Dr. Brian Hewitt, the head of Regulatory Sciences for Pfizer, dismissed concerns of senators that Australians had been coerced into getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I believe firmly that nobody was forced to have a vaccine," Dr. Thiru said.
"Mandates for vaccine requirements are determined by governments and health authorities. I believe everybody was offered an opportunity to get a vaccine or not get a vaccine. I don't believe that anybody was forced to take a vaccine."
Meanwhile, Dr. Hewitt, when asked if he believed Australians in states that were subject to large-scale mandates—like Western Australia or Victoria—were not forced into getting the shot even when they found they were unable to earn a living without receiving a vaccination, replied he did not believe mandates compelled individuals into vaccinating.
Senator Staggered By the DismissalChair of the senate inquiry, Deputy Opposition Whip Senator Matt O'Sullivan said he was staggered by the response.
Senator O'Sullivan said he had decided to get vaccinated for COVID-19 but that many Australians who believed the vaccination was not right for them were not given a choice if they wanted to continue living normally.
"In Western Australia, vaccines were mandated essentially across the entire population. There were a few exceptions. There were very few exceptions. If you wanted to go to work and earn a living and provide for your family, you had to be vaccinated," the senator said.
"Based on your evidence, I'm staggered that was the response you gave earlier to questions in relation to whether or not people were forced to have vaccines. If you had to make a choice between paying your mortgage and putting food on the table for your family, you can hardly say that those people were not forced. They were making choices.
"There were plenty of people who were forced to do it. There were some in Western Australia—I've had so many who have contacted me—who had to go without because they chose not to be vaccinated. The state government forced them to be vaccinated, frankly."
Vaccine mandates became widespread around Australia in June 2021 following the decision by the National Cabinet to introduce mandatory COVID‐19 vaccinations for staffers in residential aged care facilities, with all staff required to receive a first dose by Sept. 17, 2021.
However, the mandates were seen as a contributor to wide-sweeping civil unrest, which resulted in hundreds of thousands protesting around the country, and saw Australians regularly clashing with police in states like Victoria.
Pfizer Denies Asking Governments for Vaccine MandatesThe Pfizer executives also denied the company's involvement in the decision to implement the vaccine mandates across Australia.
"Pfizer had no involvement and has no involvement in the imposition of vaccine mandates," Dr. Thiru said.
"We have not been involved with any governments or any other organisations in relation to vaccine mandates.
"That is a matter for the government. That is a matter for lawmakers. That is not a matter for Pfizer."
The Pfizer executive also revealed that the company in Australia lost staff over the company's vaccine mandates, which are still ongoing.
"At the height of the pandemic and consistent with guidance from health authorities from the New South Wales and Victorian governments, Pfizer did have a colleague vaccination program for its employees," Dr. Thiru explained.
"We aligned with the public health guidance. We permitted accommodations or exemptions for people who had specific medical or religious reasons that they did not or could not be vaccinated. A small number of colleagues departed the company."