The South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) found that conditions developed due to COVID-19's vaccine are to be considered work-related injuries when vaccination was imposed by the employer.

In the case Shepherd v The State of South Australia, issued on the 15th of January 2024, a public employee sought compensation for pericarditis which had arisen after receiving the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The man did not want to receive the third dose but was directed by his employer to do so. Hence, he underwent vaccination due to the fear of losing his job. After the adverse effects manifested, the employee filed a claim for weekly payments of income support and medical expenses. However, his request was rejected by the State of South Australia.

Before the SAET, the employer acknowledged that the vaccine triggered the pericarditis, but argued that the injury did not stem from employment. In fact, they requested the third dose of vaccination in compliance with the Emergency Management Act issued by the State Coordinator.

The Tribunal dismissed the employer’s arguments, recognising a strong connection between the worker's employment and the injury. In fact, the employee would have refused to receive the third vaccine dose if it had not been required to do so to continue working. According to the Tribunal, the fact that some of the people who receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine sustain an injury as a result is not surprising. Moreover, it would be “ironic and unjust” to deny financial and medical support to a civil servant who complied with a State’s provision aimed at preserving public health. Thus, the SAET ordered that the worker receive weekly payments of income support as well as payment of medical expenses.

Reference: Shepherd v The State of South Australia [2024] SAET.

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