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Covid-19: Less haste, more safety

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 20 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3258

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Rapid Response:

Five years imprisonment and/or a $66,600 fine for refusing coronavirus vaccination?

Dear Editor

From Australia, I'm watching the fast-tracked development of coronavirus vaccines with mounting concern.

Under the Australian Biosecurity Act 2015, refusers of coronavirus vaccination[1] in Australia could be at risk of five years imprisonment and/or a $66,600 fine.[2] [3]

This emergency power has been active since March 2020, and has been extended to December 2020 [4], with the potential for unlimited extensions.[5] 

It's possible this emergency power could be extended until a coronavirus vaccine is available, and that people in Australia could be under duress to have coronavirus vaccination, i.e. at risk of imprisonment and/or a huge fine, for a virus which is not a threat to most people under 70.[6]

We need to talk about this...

1. Biosecurity Act 2015. Australian Government Department of Health - Listed Human Diseases (page last updated 21 September 2020): (Accessed 30 October 2020.)
2. Biosecurity Act 2015 -C2020C00127 (Accessed 30 October 2020.) 
3. Notice of Indexation of the Penalty Unit Amount, Attorney-General, dated 14 May 2020. -F2020N00061 (Accessed 30 October 2020.)
4. Human Biosecurity Emergency Period Extended By Three Months. Media Release, Ministers Department of Health, 3 September 2020: (Accessed 30 October 2020.)
5.  COVID-19 Legislative response - Human Biosecurity Emergency Declaration Explainer. Parliament of Australia. Posted 19/03/2020 by Howard Maclean & Karen Elphick: (Accessed 30 October 2020.)
5. Why do we need a vaccine for Covid-19? Elizabeth Hart, BMJ rapid response, 1 September 2020:

Footnotes to references:
1. Human coronavirus with pandemic potential (e.g. COVID-19), is included as a 'Listed Human Disease' under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

2. See the Biosecurity Act 2015, Chapter 2 - Managing biosecurity risks: human health, Part 3 - Managing risks to human health: human biosecurity control orders, Division 2 - Imposing human biosecurity control orders on individuals, Subdivision C - When an individual is required to comply with a biosecurity measure, 74 When individual is required to comply with a biosecurity measure (1) (e) section 92 (vaccination or treatment) and (2) The individual is required to comply with the measure only if: (a) the individual consents to the measure; or (b) the Director of Human Biosecurity has given a directive for the individual to comply with the measure in accordance with paragraph 72(5)(a)...(etc...), and Note 1: A person who fails to comply with a biosecurity measure that the person is required to comply with may commit an offence (see section 107) - see Division 4 - Other provisions relating to human biosecurity control orders, Subdivision C - Miscellaneous, 107 Offence for failing to comply with a human biosecurity control order...Penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years or 300 penalty units, or both.

3 A 'penalty unit' is $222 under Commonwealth law, multiplied by 300 equals $66,600

4 (to reference 5) "...The Governor-General may extend a declaration indefinitely (with each extension being for no longer than three months) if the Health Minister remains satisfied that the conditions that required a declaration of a human biosecurity emergency continue".

Competing interests: No competing interests

30 October 2020
Elizabeth Hart
Independent person investigating the over-use of vaccine products and conflicts of interest in vaccination policy
Adelaide, Australia