Queuing up for the Covid vaccination


Image by Richard Duijnstee, www.pixabay.com

Suddenly, getting your Covid vaccination is becoming a hot ticket item on social media. By that I mean ‘normal’ social media posts from people who actually believe in the science. I got my first shot last Thursday evening, 35 minutes later than the allotted time, but hey, I’m retired. I can watch Antique Roadshow later on catch-up.

I spent the time sitting in a packed waiting room with 50-60 other people in my age group (70+). I traded witticisms with a couple of people who seemed sceptical, but all the same sat and waited to be called.

Once I’d been injected (by my own doctor, no less), a nurse stuck a green sticker on my shirt and told me to ‘sit-stay’ for 15 minutes, to make sure I didn’t have any adverse reactions.

I came back out and sat next to a man who had previously been saying things about the government and their ‘jab campaign’.

“So is Bill Gates tracking us now?”

Apart from a slightly sore arm, it’s just another vaccination to add to the certificate from Medicare which lists them all from 2017. I didn’t even know they were doing that until I noticed an email when logged in to MyGov.

The Covid vaccination rollout may have been on the agenda for talks between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NZ’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, but the media focused on other issues.

Morrison, who in April claimed Australia was ahead of NZ, has come in for trenchant criticism over the government’s handling of the vaccination rollout. The debate continues about the government’s decision to restrict the Pfizer vaccine to people aged under 50. The reasoning behind this decision is that the AstraZenica vaccine (for the over-50s), which has been linked to a rare clotting disorder, is too risky for younger people.

The online news source ‘The Conversation’ sent out a well-researched piece this week asking was it possible to ‘mix and match’ vaccines.

The premise of research out of Germany is that allowing people to have, say AstraZenica for the first shot and another brand for the second is to speed up the vaccination programme when it stalls due to a vaccine stock shortage

It makes sense to allow the general population to have whatever vaccine is available at the time. But talk of risks and side effects may only serve to increase what is known as ‘vaccine hesitancy’.

The government’s chief medical adviser Brendan Murphy told a Four Corners investigation last week that vaccine hesitancy was having an impact.

“We would have expected at this stage to have had a greater uptake because we’ve now got 5,000 points of primary care presence and we are supplying excess vaccine and we have seen a slight flattening, when we expected growth.”

But Professor Murphy said much of the blame lay with the media.

“I think the biggest impact on hesitancy is, frankly, sensationalist media reporting.”

“We want to be transparent, but we want people to understand that the risk of this blood clot is really tiny, and if you’re a vulnerable person, the risk of severe COVID is high.”

Apropos of which, perhaps, a few weeks ago we started binge-watching Season 17 of the long-running medical soap. Grey’s Anatomy. Despite cries of derision from the gallery (it’s a textbook, isn’t it?), Grey’s is the 8th longest-running primetime TV series. A long way behind The Simpsons (32) and Law & Order – Special Victlms’ Unit (22), but not bad for a series labelled – ‘opera, melodrama and medical procedures’.

I’d best not reveal too many spoilers for fans of Grey’s who have not yet discovered it on the Disney Channel. I had to register for adult content to watch this series, so careful is Disney about protecting kids from M or R-rated content.  There’s not too much spicy action in sex scenes which are more about the before and after. But the well-researched scripts are full of what censors call ‘adult themes’ including sex trafficking, drug addiction, psychiatric disorders and patients presenting with the most complex (and gruesome) medical emergencies.

What is illuminating about Season 17 is the setting (Seattle 2020) with all episodes so far completely immersed in the emergence of Covid and its effect on frontline medical staff.

Executive producer and chief writer Shonda Rhimes has a lot to say through the characters about the disproportionate affect of Covid on black people (poor black people specifically), often living in overcrowded conditions.

It’s no accident Rhimes is known for a social conscience – in 2019 she was involved in a campaign with Michele Obama and others to encourage people to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Rhimes and her Grey’s Anatomy star, Ellen Pompeo, have been with the show from the start. Pompeo, now 51, shares credits in Season 17 as a producer, as well as remaining as the main actor/narrator.

Pompeo is also one of America’s highest paid actors, earning $19 million a year from syndication rights and her $550,000 per episode salary.

You might recall Grey’s Anatomy (which, BTW, is a famous textbook on human anatomy first published in 1858), getting a panning in this blog. We focused on the now-infamous opera episode, where the story was told in song, over operating tables and in hot sweaty linen cupboard clinches.

This is called ‘jumping the shark’ in TV series’ parlance and usually points to writers and producers running out of ideas.

We let some seasons go by and tuned in again about series 15 when you could watch it on catch-up.

Our bizarre attachment to medical soaps aside, I feel some degree of social responsibility to warn that we have some way to go with the goal of vaccinating all Australians against Covid-19 by October (which October?). Not the least of it is the constant presence on social media of anti-vaxxer scare campaigns, most of them debunked long ago.

It’s not just Australians who are hesitant.

Nature Magazine published a survey of 13,426 people in October 2020 indicating that 71.2% of respondents were willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if it were proven safe and effective.

The far-from-universal willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine is a cause for concern. Countries where acceptance exceeded 80% tended to be Asian nations with strong trust in central governments (China, South Korea and Singapore).

In April, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) published a survey of 1,090 people which found just 43% of Australians thought the rollout was being done efficiently (down from 63% in March). About 63% thought it was being done safely, down from 73%; and just over half (52%) were confident the vaccines will be effective at stopping COVID-19.

The slow rollout and changes to the plan also appear to have given rise to vaccine hesitancy. One in six people (16%) said they would never get vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 12% in March. It’s a small sample, but nonetheless a demonstration of how confidence in the administration has waned during the vaccine rollout.

Meanwhile the Covid vaccination tally is two for two in this household. Tip from a friend – ask for a lollypop afterwards!



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