Queensland’s education minister won’t rule out mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for school students, teachers and staff.
Grace Grace says national cabinet will likely make the final decision on any mandatory jab if and when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
She says the state government is open to a mandatory vaccine program in Queensland schools.
“We would look at what is available and what the national cabinet would do in line with the federal government,” Ms Grace told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday.
Liberal National Party MP Christian Rowan, who asked Ms Grace about a mandatory vaccine in the state’s schools, also asked education department director-general Tony Cook the same question.
He described the questions as hypothetical for the department as the vaccine wasn’t available in Australia yet.
“Once the vaccine is available, if there are issues in relation to that, it is something the department will have a look at,” Mr Cook said.
“Part of that is; is the vaccine available next year? Is the vaccine available in whatever particular period? But that is a matter we would look into if that is an issue that arises at the time.”
Ms Grace stressed that a mandatory vaccine program would be joint decision by governments around the country, but Queensland would abide by it.
“I am sure the department will enact whatever decision is made,” she told the hearing.
“The national cabinet will probably drive a lot of that decision-making about vaccination and compulsion to do so.”
Meanwhile, Mr Cook revealed the department had to deep clean 11 state schools during the height of the pandemic in Queensland.
Ms Grace said an extra $22.3 million was spent on school cleaning bills during the pandemic, which she said was a 10 per cent rise overall and a 20 per cent rise in special schools.
An extra $52.1 million was spent in other areas of the education budget to deal with the impact of the pandemic.
About $7 million went towards the IT costs associated with remote schooling, including $3 million spent on laptops for students.
But most of the $52.1 million was spent on extra personal hygiene products for school children.
“A lot of that budget went to hand sanitiser, soap and liquid soap for the children to wash their hands more often than what they normally would have done,” Ms Grace said.
“I think that was a good thing and a good lesson during COVID for us all.”