Believe it or not, it’s not only the regular anti-vax crowd who’ll need to be convinced to get the COVID-19 jab, writes Jessica Marszalek.
Believe it or not, it’s not only the regular anti-vax crowd who’ll need to be convinced to get the COVID-19 jab, writes Jessica Marszalek.

Not only anti-vaxxers will resist the rollout

OPINION

As the start of Australia's COVID-19 vaccination rollout draws closer, barbecue-stopper conversations are already happening around whether people will get the jab.

All things going well, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes four million people will be vaccinated between mid to late February and the end of March as we and the world plan a return to global normalcy.

The Federal Government has already put aside $24 million for an education campaign ahead of the vaccination program, including informing people about the safeness and fullness of the regulatory process, how the vaccines work, and where and when they can receive it.

 

And Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has confirmed authorities are preparing to pay particular attention to areas where child vaccination rates are low.

In Queensland, they include Gold Coast suburbs and its hinterland, places on the Sunshine Coast like Buderim, Nambour, Maroochy, Noosa and the hinterland up there where rates are as low as 83 per cent.

But will it be the same people hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

It's possible it will be more than just the anti-vaxxing, vegan-eating, internet conspiracy-theorists shying away this time around.

At a barbecue recently, I was taken aback when an older friend told me he won't be getting it.

He said his daughter had forbidden it. And she's a nurse.

Look what thalidomide did to those mothers who took it and their children, he told me, more than 60 years after that drug caused birth defects in thousands.

They told us that was safe, he said.

The Gold Coast hinterland is one of Queensland’s anti-vax hot spots.
The Gold Coast hinterland is one of Queensland’s anti-vax hot spots.

Vaccination campaigns are usually directed at parents around childhood jabs they safely had themselves years ago.

This time around, authorities will be dealing with all categories of people and convincing them they'll need to act as much to protect the community as themselves.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have said they're wondering if the vaccine will be safe for them, with no clinical trials yet involving pregnant women.

The government will need focus groups to understand why certain people are feeling hesitant so they can deal with what are likely a range of reasons.

Happily, Australia's willingness to get the jab is far higher than other countries, even including New Zealand, and has been growing through the pandemic.

But it's not as high as the Australian Government's target to inoculate 95 per cent of all age groups.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt

Scientific journal The Lancet: Infectious Diseases has been tracking surveys into our attitudes.

In April last year, four weeks after lockdown measures began, 86 per cent of Aussies said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if one existed. Nearly 10 per cent were indifferent.

By June, the percentage of people willing to be vaccinated had inched up to 87 per cent, and just a month later, it was 90 per cent.

It's not surprising that more people have been taking the pandemic seriously as they watched the death toll surge across the world this past year.

Conspiracy theorists have been protesting against a range of issues through the COVID pandemic.
Conspiracy theorists have been protesting against a range of issues through the COVID pandemic.

But there are still people insulated from the outside world living their lives in the suburbs who don't think they need to be part of the worldwide solution.

There was a woman at my local salon recently loudly proclaiming that COVID is "all bullshit anyway", and does anyone even know anyone who has ever had it, let alone died from it.

I knew people, I said. And yes, some of them have died, including a beloved aunt in England. Yes, but did they have underlying health conditions, she answered back. Wow.

This kind of outlook is not only offensive, it will be problematic during a vaccine rollout.

Those same surveys showed that even among those who told researchers they would take the jab, 11 per cent were still hesitant about its safety.

So how many of those people who answered yes really meant, 'I will, eventually. I just want to see how it all plays out first...'?

 

It means public trust in safety and effectiveness of our vaccines is crucial, even for people who already support vaccinations. That's why the government is right to treat concerns about side effects seriously, as it did when it requested additional information following reports from Norway this past week regarding deaths among a smattering of elderly Pfizer vaccine recipients with underlying serious health conditions.

Pfizer is expected to be the first vaccine approved in Australia, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration previously expected to give it the green light to be imported later this month.

Authorities cannot give conspiracy theorists, nor everyday Australians, any reason to believe anything has been swept under the rug in the quest to roll out these life-saving vaccines.

Originally published as Not only anti-vaxxers will resist the rollout



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