University of Western Australia: Study reveals University community supported vaccine mandates

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A study by researchers at The University of Western Australia found the University’s staff and students strongly supported COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Associate Professor Katie Attwell from UWA’s VaxPolLab led the study, which was published in a special issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focused on the psychology of the pandemic.

In November 2021, researchers invited all staff and students to complete a survey about their attitudes towards COVID vaccines, including strategies the University could use to prompt vaccination.

“We sought to understand views, drivers and what might motivate the hesitant,” Associate Professor Attwell said.

“We also wanted to know whether the University community supported the idea of the institution requiring vaccination for staff and students.”

The study found mandates were strongly supported, but not all supporters of mandates agreed with consequences such as exclusion from campus or job loss for non-compliers.

“People supported mandates based on a belief in a moral duty to protect each other and because mandates made people feel safer on campus,” Associate Professor Attwell said.

“And people with underlying health conditions were more supportive of excluding the unvaccinated from campus.

While some supporters preferred the University to mandate vaccines, others wanted it to be required by the government.

Researchers found strategies to tackle refusers had the potential to backfire, with suggestions education sessions could make the unvaccinated less likely to change their minds. However, Associate Professor Attwell said that it was still important to invest in strategies to build support for vaccination.

“Even if this only succeeds in making some people feel less coerced by the mandate, it is still important,” she said.

Following the survey, the University implemented a Premises Access Direction, which required all staff, students and visitors to its campus to show full proof of vaccination as a temporary condition of entry to all indoor premises. The temporary direction was in place from February 7 to May 6.

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