People walk past a poster encouraging vaccinations in Melbourne. ( AFP / William WEST)

Australian army chief did not announce 'mandatory vaccination'

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

A video of Australian Lieutenant General John Frewen has been viewed tens of thousands of times in social media posts that claim he announced all Australians must get at least one Covid-19 jab before Christmas 2021. The claim is misleading; Frewen said every Australian would be offered at least one jab before Christmas. Covid-19 vaccination is only compulsory for certain key workers in Australia, as of October 18.

The video was published here on Twitter on October 2.

It shows Lieutenant General John Frewen -- who was appointed to accelerate the nation's vaccine rollout -- speaking at a press conference.

"Australia is under military control. No government has a word of condemnation. Lieutenant General Frewen, the commander of Australia's #COVID-Force operation: "I will make sure everyone gets a dose of the vaccine before Christmas 2021," the Chinese-language tweet reads.

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Twitter, taken on October 18, 2021

In the video, Frewen says: "I'll make sure that everybody gets a dose by Christmas. I'll make sure that we put everything in place that we can to get to 70 as fast as we can and then once we've got to 70, we'll have a look at working to get to 80".

According to General Frewen's Covid-19 combat strategy, Australia has the potential to reach 70% vaccination coverage by November and 80% by December.

An identical clip was also shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter alongside a similar claim in multiple languages.

However, the posts are misleading.

Vaccination in Australia is voluntary, except for workers in certain sectors such as healthcare workers and aged care workers, according to the Australian Department of Health.

A keyword search on Google found the full version of the press conference streamed live here on YouTube by Australian broadcaster ABC News on August 4. The clip in the misleading posts corresponds to the livestream at the 11:08 mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading posts (left) and the ABC live stream on YouTube (right):

A screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post and the ABC News live stream.

The transcript of the press conference was published here on the Australian Government Department of Health's website.

In the live stream, Frewen said all Australians would be offered at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine before Christmas. He did not say the vaccinations were mandatory.

"My first responsibility is to make sure that every Australian who wants to get a vaccine this year can do so and I'm still very confident that we can achieve that," he said at the 10:28 mark.

He also said the government had discussed financial incentives to encourage people to take the shot, although many were choosing to get vaccinated voluntarily because "what is resonating with people right now really is being able to get back to the sort of lifestyle we use to enjoy".

The government's plan to offer at least one jab to every Australian by Christmas 2021 was reported by Australian broadcaster 9News and public service broadcaster SBS.

October 18, 2021 Changed main Twitter post and screenshot
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