Airbnb suspends Victorian host who rejected couple for receiving Covid vaccine

Airbnb has suspended a host in Victoria who refused to provide accomodation to a couple because they had received their first shots of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Just before the latest Melbourne outbreak, Steve Carey tried to book a holiday in regional Victoria with his partner.

The owner – designated a “superhost” by Airbnb – asked Carey if he had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

“We’ve both had our first [shot],” he said.

The host replied she could not accept them because of the false claim that the vaccine could cause people to pass the virus on to the unvaccinated.

“I’m not accepting any vaccinated people due to reports of adverse reactions,” the host said. “It’s also transmitting to unvaccinated people and causing them to become unwell. I’m afraid it’s way too experimental at this stage and I need to protect my other guests. I’m so sorry for any inconvenience.”

This claim has been thoroughly debunked. Covid-19 vaccines do not “shed” because they do not contain a live element.

Carey reported the issue to Airbnb, but a support person said there was nothing in the company’s terms and conditions preventing hosts from refusing people who have had the Covid-19 vaccine.

After Guardian Australia contacted Airbnb for comment, the company said it had investigated the matter and suspended the host.

“Having completed our investigation of this matter, we have suspended the listing in question,” Airbnb’s head of public policy for Australia, Derek Nolan, said. “It’s important that everyone closely follows official health guidance from local authorities as we all continue to do our part to combat Covid-19.”

The Airbnb host did not respond to a request for comment.

Carey found another place to stay, and returned to Melbourne before Thursday when the lockdown hit the state. He said he was pleased Airbnb was taking its responsibility as a corporate citizen seriously, but was disappointed the response only came after a media inquiry.

He said he wished the host well, and hoped Airbnb provided clearer information in the future.

“My complaint was never with the Airbnb host, who correctly believed that she was acting within the guidelines, or lack of them, provided by Airbnb,” he said. “Now that Airbnb has clarified things, she can decide for herself whether she wants to adhere to them.”

It is not the first case in Australia of businesses turning people away for being vaccinated. Several businesses in the Byron Shire in northern New South Wales have put up signs refusing service over false beliefs about how the vaccine works.

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