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Victorian post office licensee backs down over refusal to get Covid jab

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/14/2021 Caitlin Cassidy
Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

A regional Victorian newsagent has backed down on her refusal to be administered a Covid-19 vaccination after she closed her post office, citing state health orders.

Angela Spedding, who had operated Merrigum’s only post office for more than six years, said she had booked in a jab after being told the post office would close if she hadn’t secured an appointment by the end of the working week.

“I have booked in for the vaccination next week,” she said.

A spokesperson for Australia Post said the licensee had recently informed the organisation they would be complying with the latest health order requirements which mandated the vaccine for about 1.25 million authorised workers – including newsagents and post office workers – by Friday.

Australia Post says it is pleased that the outlet in Merrigum, in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, ‘will continue to operate as normal’ after the licensee agreed to have a vaccination. © Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Australia Post says it is pleased that the outlet in Merrigum, in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, ‘will continue to operate as normal’ after the licensee agreed to have a vaccination.

Related: Tiny Victorian town could lose its only post office as operator refuses Covid vaccine

“We are pleased to say the outlet will continue to operate as normal,” the spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, Spedding wrote on social media that the post office would have to close and she would also have to cease delivering mail, and cited her “freedom of choice” as justification for refusing to get vaccinated.

“As for your street mail, they will have another contractor but where it will go I have no idea,” she said on Facebook. “I apologise for the inconvenience this will cause for you all but it’s my freedom of choice.”

Australia Post denied Spedding had been told to close the office, but said she had advised them it would close from Thursday after discussions about her compliance with state health orders.

The closure of the post office in the Goulburn Valley town would have forced its approximately 700 residents to travel more than 20km to nearby Girgarre for postal services and mail pickups.

The Merrigum LGA of Greater Shepparton has seen its vaccination rates soar above 90% for first doses since it was thrown into lockdown to contain a Delta outbreak. It was previously lagging behind all regional Victorian LGAs in the state.

Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley said there had been “significant uptake” in Covid-19 vaccinations since the public health mandates were introduced.

“The Victorian community is roaring along … we are tearing towards 70 and 80% double dose, we won’t stop there,” he said.

The Northern Territory on Wednesday followed Victoria in mandating the vaccination to all frontline workers, in a bid to improve vaccination rates which were stalling behind the rest of the nation.

The NT chief health officer Hugh Heggie said social media “influencers”, some of them from US anti-vaccination and faith organisations, were targeting Aboriginal communities and dissuading them from getting a vaccine.

  • This article was amended on 14 October 2021. An earlier version stated Martin Foley was Victoria’s chief health officer. He is Victoria’s health minister.

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