A few weeks ago, I rescheduled my first COVID-19 vaccine appointment for an event that can no longer take place. The earliest appointment I could get was mid-July. And as the outbreak in Sydney’s east (where I live) continues to grow, I don’t know who to be more mad at: myself, or the government.
That’s the thing about the bungled vaccine rollout: it’s intensely personal (I don’t want to get COVID) and intensely political (how could they have fumbled this so badly).
I’ve been happy to wait my turn. As a young-ish person (I’m 31) without underlying medical conditions and who doesn’t work in a high risk environment, I’ve been happy for the vaccines Australia does have to go to those who need it most. When ‘secret’ ways of skipping the vaccine queue were being shared around in group chats, I ignored them. Why should I jump in, when there’s other people who need it more?
And then I received the news that I was eligible. For reasons that don’t fully make sense to me, I was able to get the Pfizer jab on account of being a surf lifesaver, despite the fact it’s winter. So, I battled the glitchy booking system to lock in a date. It was meant to be next week. But then when I realised I’d double booked myself, I chose the other (non-moveable) date and rescheduled my vaccine.
I’m furious at myself for making the wrong decision, even though I couldn’t have known it was the wrong decision at the time. But more than that, I’m furious at the Australian government for simultaneously pursuing a target of ‘COVID 0’ while having a vaccine rollout plan that’s the equivalent of Sideshow Bob stepping on the rakes.
I know Melbourne have had it worse (and more recently, too). I know I’m being an overindulgent Sydney person, but bear with me for a second.
The last time we had an outbreak, it was the northern beaches cluster at Christmas. Vaccines weren’t yet available in Australia, so while it was a devastating bookend to an all-time shit year – particularly for those whose isolation forced them to abandon plans with their loved ones – it felt almost inevitable. A consequence of an imperfect system.
But now? Australians have been able to be vaccinated since February. After the initial target of four million doses administered by end of March was missed by a staggering 3.4 million, the government seemed to give up. “It’s not a race,” became Scott Morrison‘s catchphrase of choice.
To date, just 4% of the population is vaccinated. Worse still, many people who need it most – including people living in disability homes – are yet to be jabbed. The first confirmed case in the Bondi outbreak, a frontline worker in his 60s, was not vaccinated, and police are currently investigating whether he breached a public health order.
To be clear, I’m not blaming this man for not being vaccinated. I don’t know his circumstances, but if he was hesitant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, can we really blame him? The government has bungled the messaging, the guidelines have flipped, and the media has fear-mongered in the worst possible way. He’s a symptom, not a cause.
Every day the vaccine situation changes. Yesterday, it emerged that the AstraZenecca will only be available after October on request. Today, Australia’s regulatory body made steps towards approving the Moderna vaccine. Who knows about tomorrow.
All I know is that I’ll be counting down the weeks, days and hours until I can roll up my sleeve and have a nurse stick me with a needle full of literal life-saving goo. Gimme that jab, baby, before my head explodes in rage.
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