COVID Communique: vaccine eligibility and distribution
The distribution of vaccine around Australia has been on an equitable per capita basis.
This seems fair enough until you start to look at the variable needs and risks.
Some states and territories might have more higher risk people such as in Indigenous communities, or there might be yet another crisis such as we are seeing in Sydney.
This might have all been prevented of course with a slicker vaccine roll out, better access to vaccine supply (that’s a long story that we have already heard too much about), and a more willing acceptance of vaccination by the people of Australia.
If you are one of the eligible but unvaccinated at this late stage, we would like to see you at the Yarrawonga Vaccination Centre!
The NSW Premier was slow to do what the Victorians knew all about because it worked, even if it was a pain. Lockdown.
Then they had the temerity to ask for a greater share of the equitably distributed vaccine supply to address their home-made crisis.
They should have been more active early on in identifying the hard to get to groups of hesitant and disconnected folk in the South-West of Sydney. Vaccination is a preventive strategy and is a hard sell when it seems to lack urgency because you can’t see or feel what you are trying to prevent, especially if you aren’t looking. Like trying to sell umbrellas in summer.
In their time of need, if Victoria had given vaccines to Sydney we would have left ourselves depleted of vaccine for our own next crisis (that we didn’t see coming).
It is curious that COVID outbreaks, and especially the deaths, are a trigger for a surge in demand for vaccination, the greatest preventer of death and disability from infection since Jenners’ Smallpox vaccine, based on the milkmaids cowpox theory, in 1796.
Even then the notion of vaccination was enshrouded in controversy and hesitation, possibly because it followed earlier efforts with inoculation where they collected a small quantity of real virus from infected patients with a nice fresh vehicle and injected it!
Fortunately, relatively few died whereas many were from Smallpox, and it did confer some protection.
Jenners’ much improved vaccine method was an innovation. Smallpox was finally eradicated in 1977, the year of my graduation from medical school, another important event.
NSW decided to solve their own problems by borrowing from lower risk areas of their state.
Who would have thought? The regions then encountered difficulties of their own when the coronavirus moved at the speed of a motor vehicle, and everyone was in trouble, and welched on the deal, but Tasmania lent them some and the commonwealth palmed out an advance supply, to be repaid of course.
You might be interested to know that the Yarrawonga Vaccination Centre has vaccine supply (on and off like a water tap) from a commonwealth allocation to general practice, not through the states, and that I can cheerfully inform you that more than 5000 general practices have been quietly responsible for giving over 7 million vaccines or over half of the entire national program, while the state distribution network through mass vaccination hubs has all the TV footage and hoo-ha, and an abundance of vaccine, resourcing and staff. The best bit is that we provide vaccines to all comers, including even those from across the border in NSW.
This removal of state barriers to vaccination must be one of the greatest peacetime achievements of our time.
Then there are the squabbles over eligibility with a heavy preference for the Pfizer vaccine despite everything that I have been saying in this column.
Frontline workers like nurses were always at the head of the pack and so they should be. There are others deemed at high risk or critically important for essential service provision. They all seem to get Pfizer regardless of age and yet the Pfizer rollout is more complicated and delayed for supply and logistic reasons. We saw this with the protracted vaccination of aged care residents and workers.
The rest of us (that includes me, a long time ago) got the AZ which seems to be the least preferred but is nevertheless an excellent vaccine and just as good as the Pfizer.
The teachers and the Australian Education Union are up in arms because they aren’t a priority group and can’t access COVID vaccine. Yes, they can!
Teachers and everybody else aged 40 to 59 go into the Pfizer pathway. 18–39-year-old Australians can get AZ by going to a general practitioner who will explain everything they need to know and more.
It might be an argument with a subtext of preference for Pfizer. Otherwise, it is an issue of access, and I can proudly state that this is not a problem in Yarrawonga where even after school appointments are available. But we aren’t doing walk-ins, drive-throughs or out of hours.
An educated person who is willing to accept an unbiased appraisal of vaccine efficacy and risk would say; “give me the vaccine that is available. Now. Please.”