Despite the safety issues around the AstraZeneca vaccine, I decided to go ahead and get my shot last Sunday, but I did have a good think for a few days about whether or not to proceed. My heart was aflutter like a small bird.
I guess with no community transmission currently in Australia, the tendency might be to hold off getting vaccinated. Unfortunately for me, high risk and under sexty, I didn’t feel I had that choice. For all intents and purposes, we so far have only one vaccine available to immunise the population against Covid (tiny quantities of the Pfizer vaccine excepting). Such is life in a global pandemic and thankfully that vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, is manufactured here.
Our government is in an invidious position. It wants to open our international borders but that would be electoral suicide and poor public policy if it did that before all Australians who want to be vaccinated can be vaccinated. Even then, the risk to public health of virus variants that escape current vaccines is considerable. Earlier this year, our PM said that he was aiming for 95% of the Australian population to be vaccinated. He appears to have abandoned that ambition. What the current target is, nobody really knows. Until recently, I didn’t realise how small changes in the virus reproduction factor and vaccine efficacy could disproportionately affect the level of herd immunity required to prevent circulation of the virus. I was shocked when I watched the Drs Chris and Xande van Tulleken’s doco, What We Know Now, and they punched some numbers into an equation to reflect changes in the reproduction rate with more highly infectious variants and the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine against those variants. When they did that, the herd immunity required (through vaccination) rose to 97%. That is a monumental target, perhaps even titanic.
You can see where I am going here. We have no vaccines approved for children here in Australia, vaccine hesitancy is increasing (it is currently wobbling around 35%), our available vaccine is not the most effective of all the choices, and now there is a rare but off-putting blood clot risk that will be making people extra nervous. These issues will be exercising our government’s mind.
My chronically ill father is waiting to see how it goes for me before he will even consider having the AstraZeneca vaccine. I might have thought twice about having the AstraZeneca vaccine if I wasn’t in a high risk group and if I had children who depended on me. I read the European Medicine Agency’s Signal Report (I’m like that) and discussed the risks with my family. Perhaps because my kids are both in their 20s and blasé about personal risk, or they feel we are too much for this world or are concerned about more virulent mutations if we don’t knock this virus out of circulation, or maybe because they are truly altruistic, both indicated they would have no hesitation taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
We all have a stake in preventing the virus from becoming more virulent but that will be very difficult to achieve without really excellent and the safest possible vaccines for all. We are fortunate to have so many choices of good vaccines across the world. Globally, we never thought we would be in this position at the start of the pandemic. This does not stop us from wanting the best vaccines possible. We might need miracles, very good planning, excellent regulatory oversight, some bravery and a great deal of cooperation to get vaccines in as many arms as possible.
The PM and his party have been the recipient of miracles in the past, especially at election time. In the pre-election budget next month, perhaps there will be funding for actual investments in onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing. Perhaps there will also be new funding for new vaccines and other medical research and development. Perhaps there will be funding for Continuous Glucose Monitoring for all Type 1 diabetics (thought I would throw that in there). We shall see.
I had a headache, muscle ache and slept for two days after my first vaccine shot. I’m going well now. I shall see what happens over the next two weeks. With any luck, I’ll be fine.
I feel like singing so let’s have a song – Take A Chance On Me by the one and only ABBA.
Sing it with me.
Take care, everyone.