SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens gives evidence in COVID vaccine trial

South Australia’s Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has told the Supreme Court he questioned the “necessity” of a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers before signing off on an emergency direction earlier this year.

The Commissioner appeared in the Supreme Court today to provide evidence in a trial seeking to overturn vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, which was brought forward by two nurses including inactive Adelaide Crows AFLW player Deni Varnhagen.

They are seeking a judicial review of the state government’s decision to extend the state of emergency for 28 days and for the vaccine mandate to continue for healthcare workers.

Commissioner Stevens entered the Supreme Court under police guard, but was not confronted by anti-vaccine mandate protesters, unlike Professor Nicola Spurrier, who was heckled following her appearance in the trial.

Speaking to reporters prior to his attendance at court, Commissioner Stevens hit out at Professor Spurrier’s “disgraceful and disappointing” treatment last week.

“It’s not something I’d like to see again,” he said.

“I certainly respect people’s rights to have alternative views and to share those views.

A woman holding a sign
Deni Varnhagen is one of two nurses seeking judicial review of the government’s COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.(ABC News)

Simon Ower QC, for the two nurses, today focused his line of questioning on whether the Commissioner had been satisfied that a third dose of vaccine for healthcare workers was “necessary.”

Commissioner Stevens confirmed he had requested written advice from Professor Nicola Spurrier regarding the necessity of a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, and received a written response on January 5, 2022 – one day before the mandate was extended.

Mr Ower pointed to “ambiguous” wording of Professor Spurrier’s reply, which did not explicitly outline lowered risk of transmission as one of the key benefits of vaccination.

“You simply assumed that vaccine effectiveness meant effectiveness against all facets of the virus?” he asked.

The Commissioner replied that he did.

“We were having ongoing, frequent conversations with Professor Spurrier and SA Health over the course of the pandemic response,” Commissioner Stevens responded.

“There was already a healthcare workers direction in place.

“Further consultation and advice was provided, which resulted in a decision to include a third dose, which was then signed off on.”

A woman with gray hair and glasses with a slightly concerned expression on her face
The court heard Professor Nicola Spurrier was asked about the necessity of a third COVID vaccine dose for healthcare workers.(ABC News)

When asked if he did not think to clarify the health advice, Commissioner Stevens said that was not his role nor area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise.

“Where I have questions regarding the appropriateness of the direction based on that advice, then those questions are asked and an example of that would be the third tranche of the healthcare workers vaccination mandate which saw additional allied health workers included in the mandate.

“I asked questions regarding the need to include those.”

The trial continues.

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