Seek and destroy: The memory remains but time for COVID vaccination information to fade to black - Kingston Reid

Seek and destroy: The memory remains but time for COVID vaccination information to fade to black

The regulations under which employers were permitted to collect and hold COVID-19 vaccination information in Victoria have been revoked by the Victorian Government with effect from Wednesday 12 July 2023, triggering a positive obligation to destroy that information within 30 days, namely by 11 August 2023.

The regulations were introduced in mid-2022 upon the rolling back of certain vaccination requirements under Victorian pandemic orders.  The regulations provided a clear legal basis for employers to gather COVID-19 vaccination information from specified persons attending a workplace to determine and implement reasonably practicable measures to control the health and safety risks associated with COVID-19 in the workplace.

What information will need to be destroyed?

The effect of the revocation is that any COVID-19 vaccination information that an employer collected for the purposes of complying with Victorian public health orders and/or in furtherance of their own COVID-19 vaccination policies will need to be destroyed.

Relevant COVID-19 vaccination information includes any information about whether a specified person:

  • had received any dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, including the date received and the number of doses;
  • is or was unable to receive a dose, or a further dose, of a COVID-19 vaccination for reasons including a medical contraindication or an acute medical illness;

The types of documents that this will capture include:

  • information derived from a record kept in the Australian Immunisation Register, including immunisation history statements;
  • letters from registered medical practitioners about a person’s vaccination status;
  • any certificate issued by Services Australia stating that the person is unable to receive a dose or further dose of a COVID-19 vaccination due to a medical contraindication or an acute medical illness.

A “specified person” will include any employee, independent contractor, employee of a contractor, volunteer or student from whom vaccination information was collected.

Employers may need to consider whether any registers or other documents created to monitor or record the collection of vaccination information may also need to be destroyed in order to comply with these obligations.

What if my organisation has a relevant need to continue to ensure that workers are vaccinated against COVID-19?

The effect of the revocation of these regulations is to draw a line under collection of information necessary to respond to the public health emergency and associated need to manage workplace safety concerns.  While Victoria continues to experience waves of COVID-19 through the community, the collection of vaccination information will revert to the standard approach to the collection, holding and use of health information.

If an employer believes they have a continuing need to collect, record, hold and use COVID-19 vaccination information, particularly those in or supporting the health or emergency services industries, this will need to be collected with consent and otherwise in accordance with health records legislation.

It will also be prudent for employers to revisit any obligations set out in policies, procedures or contracts of employment requiring employees to provide vaccination information to ensure that the capacity to collect, store and use that information is consistent with applicable health records information.

Kingston Reid’s dedicated team can assist with providing specific advice on this issue.

 

Katie Sweatman
Partner
+61 3 9958 9605
[email protected]
Chris Cooper
Associate
+61 3 9958 9603
[email protected]