A South Australian public servant has won compensation for a vaccine-induced injury.

The South Australian Employment Tribunal has mandated compensation for Daniel Shepherd, a former child and youth support worker with the Department for Child Protection, who developed pericarditis following a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. 

The tribunal's ruling could be a significant juncture in workers' compensation, particularly concerning mandated health protocols in the workplace.

Shepherd, 44, encountered severe health issues after receiving his third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in February 2022, a requirement for his role to ensure safety in healthcare settings amidst the pandemic. 

The symptoms escalated to severe chest pain, leading to his hospitalisation and the diagnosis of pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart's surrounding membrane.

This case spotlighted the direct implications of the Emergency Management Act's directives, which mandated vaccinations for certain workers. Shepherd's claim for workers' compensation was initially rejected, leading to the tribunal appeal.

Tribunal deputy president Judge Mark Calligeros has now found a direct link between Shepherd's employment conditions and his health condition, saying, “Mr Shepherd was required to have a third dose of the vaccine to continue performing duties and be paid. The vaccine mandate would not have applied to him had he not been employed by DCP and working in a healthcare setting”. 

The judge's ruling challenges the state's argument that liability should be excluded under the Emergency Management Act, emphasising the injustice of denying support to someone injured following public health compliance.

“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,” Judge Calligeros wrote.

“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.”

As a result of the ruling, the South Australian government is ordered to provide Shepherd with weekly income support and cover medical payments. 

A spokesperson for the state government has indicated plans to review the tribunal's decision, highlighting its potential implications for the Emergency Management Act's effectiveness and the broader principles of workers' compensation.