Why I'm Anxious to Get My Covid Vaccine

Here in Australia we’re very behind the target our own government set for vaccinating the whole population, so I guess it’s a good thing that we’ve virtually eliminated the virus here in the meantime. (Occasional leaks from hotel quarantine notwithstanding.)

I’m keen to get the vaccine as soon as I can, because I have a pre-existing condition that I think would make Covid-19 very dangerous for me (I have a disability affecting my respiratory system, so even the common cold knocks me out for two weeks. You can just imagine how much I loved it in the Before Times that everyone would freely go to work or school and cough and sneeze everywhere without a care in the world, because “it’s just a cold”). You’d think I’d be relieved that Australia is just about to embark on phase 1B of our rollout, where “people with pre-existing conditions” (the phrase we keep hearing ad nauseum) are supposed to be vaccinated. But wait! The government, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to specify which pre-existing conditions will actually qualify you, and “conditions affecting your respiratory system” in general is not one. And even if it was, I’m not sure how I’d be supposed to prove it, either. I mean, you can see from looking at me that I have a disability (not one on the government’s list, though). My mum also had a recollection of being told when I was a baby that my right lung was not fully-formed, although I’m not sure she still has it after her brain injury. What kind of documentation am I supposed to have of that, or that it takes me for-freaking-ever to recover from every cold?

I might try making an appointment with my GP to talk through the problem and see if there is any way I can get the vaccine during the 1B phase. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like GPs have any better sources of information than anyone else, so I’m not sure he actually will be able to help 😔 It’s worth a try, though.

If I’m not, in fact, eligible, then I’ll have to play the waiting game and get the vaccine at the same time as every other twenty-something (and no, the fact I’m a teacher doesn’t give me any priority either, unlike in some other countries). In that event, then the extent to which the vaccine can grant some degree of “herd immunity” before everyone has got it becomes very relevant to me. Last month The Conversation put up an article talking about the vaccines' efficacy[1] that has me a little worried (not as worried as I’d be in a country with widespread transmission, though). The 95% effectiveness rate we hear about is its effectiveness preventing illness, which to be sure is a great thing if you’re the one who got the vaccine. But even if vaccinated you can still actually become infected with the virus. Now, I assume your infectiousness would be much lower if you’re asymptomatic… but in the early days of the virus we heard a lot about asymptomatic transmission, so seemingly it does occur.

I guess the thing that has me worried is that, at some point, the government might decree that we’ve vaccinated “all the vulnerable people”, and therefore stop worrying about further leaks from hotel quarantine (or maybe even end the hotel quarantine program altogether), before the majority of the population has actually been vaccinated – or even had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Considering I’m pretty sure I am vulnerable regardless of the government’s arbitrary criteria, I would be very concerned about a situation where we have unknowingly infectious people walking about, precautions like masks and social distancing on the decline, and the majority of people not yet vaccinated. I also know the “business community” has spent the majority of the last year pushing for exactly this kind of dangerous situation, with the federal government completely on-board, but largely thwarted by the states. It also seems like this kind of situation would run the risk of new strains emerging as the virus jumps between vaccinated and unvaccinated hosts, and we also know that strains like the South African one – against which the vaccines are only 50–60% effective – will probably circulate indefinitely in the community if they leak from quarantine (which I guess means the quarantine programs are unlikely to end for so long as that remains the case).

Hopefully, the states will continue to stand their ground and block a full “return to nomal” until everyone has had ample opportunity to get vaccinated. We are very, very fortunate to have escaped the worst of the pandemic in Australia, and that’s largely down to the serious precautions that state governments introduced. I suppose I’m eager to see us not stumble at the final hurdle, and actually get through this thing without a late-stage outbreak.

[1] Can vaccinated people still spread the coronavirus?