‘Breaking up’ with unvaccinated businesses and customers
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Six weeks ago, Leigh Fein sat down and typed up a break-up letter. The Glen Iris businesswoman wasn’t ending things with a lover, but with her treating chiropractor of 17 years who revealed he would not be getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“My anxiety levels were increasing to the point where the treatment was no longer worth it to me,” she said. “It was hard …luckily he was very gracious about it all.”
Ms Fein then set about calling clinics to find a practice where she could feel safe.
Leigh Fein recently ‘broke up’ with her chiropractor of 17 years after he revealed himself to her as an anti-vaxxer.Credit:Eddie Jim
“I wrote a script which included the vital question about whether the entire practice was vaccinated, or not. The poor young woman who took my call was clearly gobsmacked by it, but she politely asked if I would hold while she sought help,” Ms Fein says.
“She came back moments later with the answer: ‘Yes, all our chiropractors and the people here are vaccinated.’”
It’s an awkward scenario about to play out for many of us in the coming weeks as Victoria emerges from lockdown into a post-vaccine world.
On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced all authorised workers – anyone in industries still operating on-site – would be subject to mandatory vaccination. But the Victorian public will be left to navigate non-essential business such as hairdressers and gyms without knowing if staff are vaccinated.
Irene Stavrakakis, owner of Lumberjack Cafe in Richmond, feels it would be hypocritical to enforce vaccine passports for patrons without her and her 11 staff members being fully vaccinated.
She’s decided to go public that her cafe of 17 years will be a fully vaccinated business, and hopes others follow her lead.
“We deal with hundreds of people a day, so I think being transparent is really important,” she said.
While she knows she will cop flack from a minority with anti-vaccine beliefs, she believes those who commit to being a fully vaccinated business and advertise themselves as such will see their businesses grow.
”There’s a venue nearby us where they don’t wear masks and I think I’ve picked up about 70 per cent of their customers – they tell us they won’t go there anymore.”
Maidstone hair salon owner Sheridan Rose Shaw has also opted to promote her business, Mamawest, as fully vaccinated. But it hasn’t been easy.
Two of her four staff were already on-board with getting vaccinated, one needed coaxing and another has refused to get vaccinated and will leave the business.
“I am a conflict avoider but as a leader I know I need to lean into the hard conversations,” Ms Rose Shaw said. “It’s kind of lead or be led right now. I just had to go inside myself and say, ‘this is my business and I get to decide our actions’.”
Mamawest will strictly follow health orders, meaning unvaccinated patrons won’t be accepted. Of the salons more than 700 clients, Ms Rose Shaw has received only three negative responses.
“Yesterday I had this comment that we’re being disgusting and discriminatory whereas I don’t see it as a choice – I don’t see we have a choice in the matter,” she said. “I can’t afford to be shut down again and one of the co-workers has compromised immunity … we will be protecting our community at all costs. That’s our philosophy and our actions have to align with our values.”
“I didn’t sign up to police vaccine passports but if that’s what’s I have to do to keep what’s left of my business [after lockdowns], I’ll do it,” she said.
While informal collations of pro-vaccine businesses exist on Instagram pages such as @shop_covid_safe_au, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said there was merit in the idea of a directory of fully vaccinated businesses.
Mr Guerra said Victorian businesses were desperate to re-open, but clarity was still needed on issues including what businesses should do when they are visited by a COVID-infected person.
“We don’t just want to open, we want to stay open. So what are the conditions around this?” he said.
Meanwhile, Ms Fein has written a guide for her friends and family on how to navigate awkward questions around asking the vaccine status of businesses, family and friends.
She says it can be done civilly, without confrontation and gets easier each time.
“If you reframe it as you have a right to be fully informed and make the best decisions you possibly can for yourself, family, and those who love and care about, then that might help you ask the questions that you might be feeling afraid to ask.”
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