LA Trobe University has proposed a two-staged approach to safely reopening its campuses later this year once national vaccination thresholds have been achieved.

The university’s stated goal is “that everyone attending La Trobe campuses who is eligible and able to be vaccinated, is fully vaccinated”.

“In implementing this goal and, taking account of the State roadmap announced by the Premier on Sunday, we propose to adopt a two-staged approach as outlined below,” the university said in a statement this week.

“As a public-spirited University with a global reputation for excellence in our health disciplines, including public health, our aspiration is that all members of the University community who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 will take that step to protect themselves and others,” the University’s School of Psychology and Public Health’s Professor Vijaya Sundararajan said.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have safe and effective vaccines available for COVID-19 that reduce the risk of severe illness. Bringing the vaccination rate as close to 100 per cent as possible amongst staff and students will enable us to get back to a vibrant on-campus life as soon as possible,” the Professor said.

Throughout the first stage, from now until the end of November, the university will continue to provide support and encouragement to all staff and students to get vaccinated as soon as possible. This includes continuing to provide vaccination leave for staff.

Under the proposed approach, Stage Two will commence in early December. From that date, anyone attending campus (staff, students, contractors, visitors) will be expected to be fully vaccinated.

For staff and students with a valid medical exemption or other legally-recognised exemption from vaccination, the university will make arrangements to enable work and study to continue beyond that date.

Staff and students who remain unvaccinated by choice may not be able to have special arrangements made for them, which may lead to them compromising their ability to fulfil their respective obligations for work or study.

The university will continue to monitor the pace of the vaccine roll-out and adjust these dates if necessary.

The university has a duty to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace Associate Professor in Public Health and Head, Department of Public Health, Melissa Graham, said.

“This proposed approach will therefore enable the university to fulfil its obligations and reassure staff and students who are already vaccinated that they will not be placing their health at risk by coming onto campus,” Associate Professor Graham said.

“Vaccination is the most important thing La Trobe staff and students can do to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. Our university’s two-stage plan is consistent with public health principles and will help keep us all safe when we return to campus.”.

Work has commenced on designing the implementation arrangements, in consultation with health and safety representatives.

A voluntary survey will be conducted shortly for staff and students to share their perspectives, with aggregated responses helping inform future initiatives.

Another of the university’s Associate Professors in Public Health, Deborah Gleeson, said: “La Trobe’s roadmap to re-opening will support staff and students by first making it easy to get a vaccine, and then, once everyone has had a chance to be vaccinated, making it essential for those on campus to be fully vaccinated unless they have a valid exemption. This is a sensible and ethical plan that will help protect our La Trobe community.”