Canberra Airport boss Stephen Byron has urged businesses to help get Australians vaccinated more quickly by taking on the task of educating employees.
Mr Byron has made contact with more than 350 businesses linked to the airport, detailing the airport's approach to improving the COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
In an email to businesses at the airport, at Majura Park Shopping Centre and to contractors and suppliers, Mr Byron said 76 per cent of airport staff over the age of 50 had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Airport employees were asked to volunteer their vaccine status to management, and infectious diseases specialist Peter Collignon was invited to speak about the vaccine.
Staff were encouraged to take time off to attend their own vaccination appointments and take time off to attend with elderly parents wishing to receive the vaccine.
As with any cold-like symptoms, employees who experienced side effects were given time off with no questions asked, Mr Byron said.
He said businesses needed to act right away because in some cases it took time for the importance of vaccinations to sink in.
In the case of the airport, management had begun the process of educating employees last year and found hesitancy or reluctance among employees was not that common.
"It's just that we're all busy in our lives with lots of priorities and people are comfortable to put it off until the end of the year unless business shows leadership and says 'No don't put it off, it's the most important thing you can do today'," Mr Byron said.
He said the recent outbreak in Victoria and the subsequent announcement from ACT Health that the vaccine would be extended to 40-50-year-olds had meant airport employees in that bracket had been quick to book.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said businesses had actively supported employees getting flu shots for years, and the COVID-19 vaccination should be no different.
"The seven-day lockdown in Melbourne cost the economy $1.5 billion and set back much of our progress."
The impact of lockdowns has been felt hard at the airport. Weekly passenger numbers dropped to 29,000 last week, down from 39,000 a fortnight ago, the closest they had been to pre-pandemic numbers of about 65,000.
While the number of passengers travelling to other cities continued to grow, the airport suffered another blow this week when Rex Airlines announced it would delay the commencement of its flights between Canberra and Melbourne.
"In terms of visitors from Melbourne, it is trending towards zero," Mr Byron said.
"It's a pretty big setback to again be going through it."
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