COVID’s back: some thoughts on the last month

Not too long ago, I wrote about the vaccination situation. Since then, the small outbreak in Melbourne which provoked me to write that article has evolved into something far greater. Sydney has spent over a month in a lockdown which is showing no signs of slowing any time soon.

The impacts have spread beyond Sydney, too, with intermittent lockdowns occurring all across the country. Indeed, I’m just about to emerge from two weeks of home quarantine after being exposed to a COVID-19 case, something I’ll touch on more in a bit.

Like many Australians, the past two months have left me with far more questions than answers, and the failures of respective governments are really starting to shine through. I suspect, finally, that the magnitude of these failures is reaching through to mainstream Australia.

AstraZeneca — are we really still arguing about this?

It really does seem quite strange to me that Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, continues to cast doubt on the AstraZeneca vaccine, given the present circumstances surrounding Delta.

At the end of June, Dr Young stated that “[she doesn’t] want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die”. In the context of fighting the original strain of the virus, I’d probably accept Dr Young’s argument.

But we’re not fighting the original strain of COVID-19. 2020 left us eight months ago. Delta’s here now, and it’s a whole different beast.

In light of that, I really do think it’s time Dr Young consider the advice she’s providing to younger people around AstraZeneca, as the vast majority of the other state and federal CHO/CMOs have done.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t by any means dislike Jeannette Young. I think that she’s largely handled the pandemic quite well in Queensland, and is an excellent choice to be the next governor of the state. I just think she’s missed the mark on this particular matter.

If you’re over 18, just go get the damn thing. The quicker you do, the quicker we can all be free from all of this.

Queensland’s contact tracing… fail?

To bring things closer to home, and to return to a point mentioned earlier in this article: almost two weeks ago I was at a close-contact exposure site.

How did I find this out? Not from Queensland Health, that’s for sure. No, as a matter of fact, the discovery I’d been at an exposure site was thanks to The Courier-Mail — thanks, guys.

By way of full transparency, I was able to read an official communication from Queensland Health which was forwarded to me by a related person who was also at the site but associated with the host venue. So there was at least some degree of communication from Queensland Health to some impacted individuals.

Either way, here I am. Over a week and a half later — despite my fastidious use of the Check In Qld app — I’m yet to be contacted by Queensland Health. Based on this article, it seems others have had the same experience.

I’m in no doubt that the contact tracers are doing their best, and their efforts are clearly working, given the speed with which we toppled the latest outbreak. Nonetheless, I’d suggest it’s pretty lucky that we’ve not had a bigger outbreak requiring greater contact tracing.

Inoculation incentivisation

In a departure from the norm, Anthony Albanese actually managed to insert himself into the news cycle last week, by proposing a $300 payment to incentivise vaccinations.

Great idea, Albo.

Wait… what… did he say incentivisation?

What is the point of providing financial incentives right now when we are still waiting for an adequate supply of vaccines for the entire population. Doesn’t it make sense to vaccinate the willing before attempting to solve an issue that may not even present itself?

Don’t get me wrong, a $300 handout sounds lovely, but at a projected cost of $6 billion, it’d come at no insignificant cost to the Australian economy. It just seems rather premature to me.

Let’s circle back to this one in 6 months.

Vaccination — don’t get me started

I’m 16-years-old, and I was fully vaccinated by the end of June. Not because I’m in a priority group, but because I secured a surplus dose of vaccine by walking in at a clinic.

The reality remains, though, that most people my age have not had the luxury of being able to access the vaccine, and are now left totally unprotected from the virus; a virus that has now evolved to be more transmissible among and harmful to children than before.

Kids are the new superspreaders. The recent Queensland outbreak is absolute proof of that.

We’re still not vaccinating fast enough, despite the outbreak-driven increase in New South Wales. It’s just not good enough.

Final thoughts

Australia is at a crossroads right now. For the first time since the beginning of last year, a redesign of how we approach the virus has become necessary. The current situation in NSW has occurred, in large part, I believe, as a result of utter complacency regarding the changing nature of the virus.

To fight Delta, we need a new, clear national strategy. We need to stay one step ahead, or we risk losing everything we’ve achieved in the fight against this virus so far.

In the end, despite the present setbacks, the light at the end of the tunnel remains in sight. The way the US and UK are now living relatively freely, thanks to mass vaccination, should serve as an encouragement to us all.

The vaccination situation

Vaccination is, without doubt, our best pathway to move on from the pandemic. So it baffles me, each and every day, as to how the Federal Government has screwed it up so incredibly badly.

I won’t dwell on the AstraZeneca situation because, frankly, as I see it, it’s a perfectly satisfactory and safe vaccine. The conflicting rhetoric from the Federal Government and the media regarding the vaccine has done this country no favours.

I will say just this: if you’re eligible to get it, then do so. You’re four times more likely to be struck by lightning at some point this year than you are to die of a side-effect.[1]

My main concern with the rollout isn’t so much what vaccine we’ve got to offer, it’s the fact that we’ve barely got one to put on offer, and likely won’t until the end of this year.

In early November last year, Scott Morrison loudly and proudly proclaimed that Australia was at the “front of the queue” when it came to vaccinations![2] It made headlines across the nation, and positive news stories for the Coalition.

But, was Morrison’s claim true? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The graph below illustrates vaccine doses administered per 100 people in OECD countries on the date of this post’s publication. Notably, that Australia’s coming 36th out of the 38 OECD nations. Now look, I don’t know about you, but I ain’t convinced that this is what the front of the queue looks like.

It’s all well and good to suggest that these countries need the vaccine more than us. That they’ve been impacted by COVID more than we have. Even accepting that, I’m still of the view that we should (and could) be doing much better right now.

At present, we’re seeing COVID outbreaks in Melbourne and Sydney. I’m no infectious disease specialist, but it seems to me that if we had a highly vaccinated population, we’d probably be a bit calmer about it. Instead, because the vast majority of the population is unvaccinated, we get into a big panic every single time a few cases get into the community. It’s farcical, albeit necessary, yet could have been so easily avoided.

Now, to give the Federal Government credit where credit’s due, there’s no denying that Australia’s economy has presently recovered far better than most of the countries above, and indeed the wider world. But if the vaccine “rollout” continues as it has been, we’re going to be left behind in the long run.

Our borders will remain closed, while quarantine-free international tourism returns elsewhere in the world.

We’ll continue to suffer the financial impacts of domestic lockdowns, while the rest of the world gets on with business as usual.

Families will remain separated by the Federal Government’s reprehensible, unprecedented ban on Australian citizens leaving the country.

Until vaccination is an easy process, accessible to all, and one which commands the public’s confidence, we’re going to continue facing these impacts which come from living alongside the virus.

I note that Scott Morrison was one of the first in the country to have a Pfizer jab stuck in him. At the time it happened, I supported that move entirely. It seemed important that he set an example to Australians that the vaccine is safe and worthwhile. Now, though, seeing how little of the adult population remains unvaccinated thus far, he looks like a selfish fool.

Similarly, last week, the Prime Minister found himself on the other side of the planet, swanning around Cornwall pondering his convict heritage, chatting with locals in pubs, in a place of the world which any normal Australian citizen is legally prohibited from visiting.[3]

Mr Morrison, you’ve got a job: to lead, to inspire confidence, to convince the public that everything’s under control. Get on with it. If you’re not up to the job, step aside and let an adult take the reins.

It seems that perhaps the Prime Minister has finally found himself in a situation in which spin won’t set him free. It’s about time that he steps up, takes responsibility, and owns the fact that this really hasn’t gone to plan. Or, at the very least, stops insisting it has.[4]

Ultimately, it’s not too late to sort this whole situation out. A strong and effective marketing campaign, as well as a consistent and sufficient supply of vaccines, will see the “rollout” become an actual rollout. Indeed, you, dear reader, can help simply by rolling up your sleeve and getting the vaccine when your time comes.

We can still get it done, so let’s not just do it — let’s demand it. For when we can return to a COVID-free world, it’ll all be worth it. We might even be lucky enough to visit Cornwall and discuss our family history over a pint with the locals.

Respecting women: if not now, when?

Throughout the last month, the parasitic mistreatment of women has been thrown into the spotlight of our nation once again. Be it in the halls of parliament, or those of our schools, it’s clear we’ve got a problem.

Initially, I decided to avoid writing anything on this topic because I didn’t think it was my moment. I’m not a woman, nor can I claim to have a true understanding of the adversities they face within our society.

But I was wrong. It is my moment. It’s your moment. It’s everyone’s moment. Our moment, as human beings, to take a stand, to confront the fact that the behaviour we are hearing about isn’t okay — it’s appalling, and in most cases criminal, too.

The issue isn’t that all men are bad; they’re not. The issue is that women are all too often subjected to inappropriate physical, verbal, and sexual behaviours from men. Enough men that we see the following statistics in Australia:

1 in 6 women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault.[1]

1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.[2]

One woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.[3]

85% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.[4]

These statistics are not right, they’re not fair, and are just a handful of the many which depict the frightening reality for women in our society.

Janine Hendry, the organiser of last Monday’s March 4 Justice in Canberra, further articulated the prevalence of gendered violence in an article published in The Guardian.

The reality is this: within society, there will always be bad apples. People who’ve lost their way, and subject others to things that no person ought ever to be.

But right now, far too many men aren’t just bad apples. They’re conscious participants in (and beneficiaries of) a system that protects them from inappropriate behaviour, and supports its generational perpetuation.

So, to my fellow men, I say this: it comes down to us to confront and end the actions, big and small, which have and continue to lead to the damaging attitudes held by far too many among us.

It’s about making the choice to not laugh at that questionable joke with your mates. It’s about having the courage to take a stand, even when it feels awkward. Put a stop to these attitudes while they’re in front of you, because while it might not be the ‘cool’ option, it’s always the right one.

Changing inappropriate behaviours and attitudes is not a big ask. It’s a simple request to treat others with basic human decency. The issues that presently exist could be solved overnight if every man were to instantaneously develop a fundamental sense of respect for others.

In reality, though, these issues cannot be solved overnight. However, with time, effort, empathy, and education, the only place we’ll hear about the widespread mistreatment of women, and the men who engaged in it, will be in history classrooms.

Let’s make it happen.