Face to face with a new breed of vax refusers

5 minute read

This selfishness and stupidity is making my blood boil.

Generally I tend to be a fairly positive person by nature. A bit of a Pollyanna.

Even writing this in the middle of the Sydney lockdown, I can honestly say that this whole covid pandemic has, in many instances brought out the best in the majority of people (toilet paper hoggers aside). Did you see the standing ovation at Wimbledon, given to scientist Dame Sarah Gilbert who was part of the team that developed the AstraZeneca vaccine? Wasn’t that wonderful?

But I’ve hit a wall with this one. Not only do I not understand the mindset, but I cannot stop the anger.

I’m talking about those people who are set against getting the covid vaccine. Any covid vaccine. While I don’t agree with majority of reservations about the AZ vaccine, I can see why an anxious person might prefer the Pfizer vaccine – but these are not the people that concern me. I’m talking about those people who don’t want either.

For reasons ranging from “it’s been too rushed and untested” to “I don’t like being told what to do”, they feel entitled to pass on our only real way of getting out of this plague.

Fortunately, there aren’t many but there are certainly some, and they’re not your usual anti-vaxxers. People whom I consider educated and theoretically well-informed are among these anti anti-covid cohort and they seem to be offering banal excuses for their stance against vaccination. It’s like a new breed of vaccine refusers has emerged and it’s bringing out the worst in me.

I can’t decide whether it’s stupidity or selfishness – probably a bit of both – but while I try to present that pre-requisite non-judgmental persona when I encounter one of these people, I can feel my frustration levels rising. Even if they themselves don’t feel at risk from the virus, they don’t appear to feel any sense of responsibility  for potentially transmitting the infection to the more vulnerable in our community.

A classic example is a patient of mine we’ll call Barb. Barb’s in her early 60s and works as a nurse for a non-GP specialist. She’s had a few health issues but is currently not on any medication. Perfect candidate for vaccination. Oh no, she’s worried about side effects of any covid vaccine so thinks she’ll just rely on everyone else getting it and she’ll be protected by herd immunity. Yes, she actually quoted herd immunity to me.

Of course I tried to address the reservations about the side effects, but let’s face it – she’s an RN – she should know this, and even if she doesn’t, why isn’t she listening to the people she knows are trustworthy? The medical experts, the scientists, the specialists – not just here but around the world. Does she think they are all stupid? Or lying? Or part of some giant conspiracy? And even if she genuinely believes the side-effects are that bad, why is it then OK that everyone else risks them and gets vaccinated in order to protect her?

After this rant, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m in favour of covid vaccination being mandatory for all aged care workers. Of course they should all be vaccinated. It would be entirely indefensible that any vulnerable elderly resident of an aged care facility contract the infection from a staff member simply because that worker chose not to receive the vaccine.

And I think the mandate should be extended. All those people who deliver services to elderly patients in their homes or even in the community should have to be vaccinated, and yes even all staff at medical services, including Barb.

I’m not sure what the specialist practice that employs Barb is doing in terms of pressuring her to get the vaccine, but I know of at least one practice who is about to say “if you don’t get vaccinated you can’t work here” to an employee who is refusing to get the vaccine.

It’s a tough call isn’t it? But surely we have to take a stand. Personal liberty is important, but not more important than protecting the whole.

Maybe all this will be a moot point. Perhaps when we start seeing some carrots to encourage vaccination rather than the current sticks, those vaccine-refusers will change their mind.

Maybe when they say vaccinated people aren’t required to abide by lockdown restrictions, or can travel freely between states, or even travel overseas, we might see the Barbs of the world lining up to get their shots. I hope so.  

But at the moment I’m left with the feeling there are two kinds of people in the world – those who are getting the covid-vaccination and those who are refusing it.

And really, at the risk of sounding a tad judgmental, I don’t think much of that second group.

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