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I got the AstraZeneca vaccine, and so should you – if you can.
Immediately after the health minister, Greg Hunt, and departmental secretary, Brendan Murphy, got up on 22 March and announced the government website through which you could book in for Covid-19 vaccination shots was open for business, I started trying to get a booking in Melbourne.
I am under 50 and have a medical condition, diabetes, that makes me eligible for vaccination under phase 1B of the program because if I get the roni I’m as much as three times as likely to die as someone without it.
It concentrates the mind somewhat.
Weighing the risk of getting Covid-19, which can cause long-lasting health damage even if it doesn’t kill you, against the extremely small chance of getting a potentially deadly blood clot from the vaccine left me in no doubt: I should go for the jab.
I know people are legitimately concerned about the risks of the vaccine. And in a country like Australia, where coronavirus is, for the moment at least, largely under control, it’s easy to think there’s no need to take the punt.
But the horrific scenes we are seeing in India right now, together with the memory of mass burials in places like New York last year, show how bad things could get here if coronavirus got into our community and out of control.
Our international borders will not remain effectively closed forever; eventually, the government will lift the ban on Australians leaving the country, and start allowing large numbers to arrive as well.
It’s basically essential that the country is fully vaccinated before that happens – otherwise, we risk large-scale infection.
With all this in mind, I set off to get vaccinated.
Unfortunately, getting a booking was something of a nightmare, thanks to the Morrison government’s persistent bungling of the vaccination program.
On day one, I contacted three different clinics in my area advertised by the health department’s website as open for bookings. Two of them told me they had no vaccine as yet and the phone at the third simply rang out.
I was eventually – a couple of weeks later – able to book into my own GP clinic, where I joined a roomful of much older folks waiting for the jab.
Even then there were complications: my shot was delayed so that the supervising doctor could take a look at new health advice for the under-50s.
But once in the chair the whole thing was very straightforward. The two nurses doing the jab job made sure I understood that I could get Pfizer instead – although they reckoned that if I did that I’d probably be waiting until January – and made sure I did not have a couple of blood conditions that I can’t spell or tell you anything about except that they sound awful.
Because I was at my usual GP clinic, my medical record was right there on the screen in front of them to check I was eligible and I hadn’t been diagnosed with anything that meant I shouldn’t get jabbed.
They also ran through the kind of after-effects that are common – things like a sore arm, tiredness, a headache and nausea – as well as the rarer ones like anaphylaxis.
Then they whacked the needle in my arm.
I felt fine. The next day, I had a slightly sore shoulder where I’d been given the needle, but it was no worse than after an ordinary seasonal flu jab. And the day after that, even that had faded away.
The only lasting effect has been a sense of relief. We’re mostly working in the office again after a long stint at home last year; with our cities bustling once again, full of the newly-unfamiliar sensation of being in a crowd of strangers, it’s easy to see how the virus, which is extremely contagious, could infect hordes within days.
I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give medical advice. But what I can say is this: I am very happy to have had the AstraZeneca vaccine, and I’d be willing to take any of the others approved by the TGA.
It is a real pity that the government’s incredibly incompetent efforts to run the vaccine program have helped create more doubt over the medicines themselves.
Morrison’s continuous insistence that a program, which has well and truly run off the rails and into a gully, where it has caught fire, remains on schedule has not helped.
His initial promise that we would all be done by October have long been abandoned; we are now told the bulk of the shots we need won’t arrive until some time between October and the end of the year.
I’ll certainly be fully vaccinated by then – I’m due back in for my second and final shot of Astra in early July.
Source: The Guardian
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