A South Australian government employee who fell ill after getting a mandatory COVID vaccine has won compensation against his employer.

Daniel Shepherd worked as a child and youth support worker with the Department for Child Protection when he had a third dose of the COVID vaccine in February 2022.

Directions made under the Emergency Management Act in January 2022 required certain workers such as Mr Shepherd to get a booster shot to continue working.

SA Employment Tribunal documents showed Mr Shepherd experienced aching joints, cold and flu symptoms and minor chest pain after his first COVID vaccine in August 2021.

He had similar symptoms following his second shot.

He had those shots when he was employed by Baptist Care SA which encouraged, but did not require, COVID vaccinations.

In February 2022, Mr Shepherd felt severe chest pain the day after he had his third shot, which grew steadily worse until two weeks later he experienced pain so “unbearable” he thought he was having a heart attack.

The 44-year-old was taken by ambulance to Ashford Hospital where cardiologists diagnosed Mr Shepherd with post-vaccine pericarditis – an inflammation of the membrane around the heart.

The employee has been off work since March 2022, except for a period of two months when he worked in a part-time administrative role.

He made a claim for workers compensation, claiming vaccine-related injury, but was rejected. 

Tribunal deputy president Judge Mark Calligeros ruled that the vaccination mandate and Mr Shepherd’s employment were “both significant contributing causes” of the applicant’s injury.

“Mr Shepherd was required to have a third dose of the vaccine to continue performing duties and be paid,” he said.

“The vaccine mandate would not have applied to him had he not been employed by DCP and working in a healthcare setting.

“The connection between employment and the injury is a strong one given I have found that Mr Shepherd would not have had a third dose of the vaccine if he had not been required to in order to continue working.”

His employer argued that his injury was a result of the Emergency Management Act directive and liability would be excluded under the same act.

But Judge Calligeros rejected those arguments.

“It is not surprising that some people who receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine will sustain injury as a result,” the judge said.

“The state required Mr Shepherd to be vaccinated to continue working in a healthcare setting, because it sought to protect and reduce the risk of infection to the public and general and those members of the public receiving healthcare services in particular.

“It would be ironic and unjust if Mr Shepherd was denied financial and medical support by complying with the state’s desire to preserve public health.”

The judge ordered the state government to pay Mr Shepherd weekly income support and medical payments. 

In a statement, a state government spokesperson said they would review the decision. 

“This decision means that if a state government employee is required to become vaccinated as part of their job, and they fall within the very small cohort of people who experience an adverse reaction to a vaccine, any injury they experience may be covered by workers compensation laws,” a spokesperson said. 

“That is consistent with ordinary principles of workers compensation, which ensure that workers are given appropriate support for injuries which arise from their employment.

“The government will consider the court’s decision and obtain advice on any implications for the effectiveness of the Emergency Management Act.”

Posted , updated