Waiter almost killed by meningococcal vaccine loses work due to COVID jab exemption



In 2018 Melbourne man Mason Reed was required to get a meningococcal immunisation for work, but he experienced extremely rare side effects and spent two weeks in a coma.Key points:The 25-year-old has been told by doctors he cannot have a COVID-19 vaccineMr Reed’s employment agency accepted his exemption, but the businesses clients declined to give him workThe rare situation brings occupational health and safety laws into conflict with discrimination lawsIt was months before Mr Reed could walk or drive again and he still has permanent damage to his sight and back muscles.”When I woke from the coma I was not myself — I was incredibly disabled,” he told Virginia Trioli.”My muscles everywhere — my body had completely degenerated, [it was a] horrible experience.”One of Victoria’s leading clinicians confirmed Mr Reed has a “medical contraindication” to COVID-19 vaccines, meaning he is one of the few people who cannot get a jab because it is likely to cause harm.The Australian government has issued Mr Reed an official COVID-19 digital certificate that should allow him to participate in the vaccinated economy.But on Monday he found out he was unable to continue working as a waiter or COVID marshal for a large employment agency.”The employment agency, they’ve said, ‘OK, your exemption is completely fine — we accept it,'” Mr Reed said.”But all of the clients in Australia – except one – are saying that they will not accept a person with a medical exemption.”Even the most official medical exemption, they will not accept it.”It’s not just an isolated incident — it’s dozens and dozens of businesses across Australia that have decided to implement this rule.” Mr Reed says he nearly died after having a meningococcal vaccination in 2018.(Supplied: Mason Reed)Hours after Mr Reed spoke to ABC Radio Melbourne one of the employment agency’s clients “backed down” and said he would be allowed to work as a COVID marshal.”It is a relief — a weight off my shoulders,” he said.”But I still haven’t heard from the hospitality venues.”LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicDiscrimination, OH&S laws collideMr Reed believes the venues where he would usually work are worried about the risk of bringing an unvaccinated person into the workplace, even if they do have an official medical exemption.”They’re scared that WorkSafe will have a case against them if that unvaccinated person brings COVID to a vaccinated person in their workplace,” he said.”They’re more afraid of the law that says that, rather than the discrimination law.”What if you can’t be vaccinated?People with a history of serious allergic reactions to medication and vaccine ingredients say they’ve been struggling to get an appointment with their specialist as Australia moves closer to opening up. Read moreMr Reed is considering contacting the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and says he may pursue a test case.But he would rather the federal and state governments clarify employer’s responsibilities so he does not have to go to court.In the meantime, Mr Reed’s employment agency is trying to find work he can do from home.He is also looking for different hospitality work.”Ultimately I would prefer my previous job back,” he said.What you need to know about coronavirus:Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Ro Allen says people like Mr Reed have a right not to be discriminated against, but everyone also has a right to a safe workplace.”With all the rights in the charter it is always a balance,” Commissioner Allen said.”The exemptions are there for a reason, and it is new.”Employers are working through this as well and I think it’s important that they get information to help them make the decisions.”Any employers or employees seeking more information can contact the Human Rights Commission or visit its website.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 1 second2m 1s COVID-19 boosters to begin as early as November 8Loading form…



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