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Why Australians seem happier to go into lockdown than get Covid-19 vaccine

Sydney is in the midst of a scary time but responses to a poll shows that many Australians have got their priorities all wrong.

Sydney isn’t in lockdown but it really wants to be.

“LOCK US DOWN ALREADY!” some Sydneysiders are saying with a mix of fear and excitement in their eyes.

There are now 48 active cases in Sydney and they’re the Delta variant, which as we know is highly infectious.

On Wednesday night Health Minister Brad Hazzard told news.com.au there was “zero” truth to reports the state was likely to announce a lockdown by Friday.

“No plan to lockdown contrary to media reports this evening,” Mr Hazzard said.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant agreed that a three-day lockdown wasn’t necessary.

“We are not in that situation where we are not getting to people in terms of the contact tracing,” she said on Thursday.

But despite the reassurance a lockdown wasn’t imminent, a news.com.au poll of more than 22,000 people shows that the majority of people in Sydney think that we should go into lockdown. Those in Melbourne and interstate are also very keen for it to happen.

RELATED: Gladys confirms no lockdown for Sydney

While I think it’s noble that everyone is happy to play their part to keep us safe, I can’t help but feel that some Aussies have got their priorities completely wrong.

Why do people appear more willing to go into lockdown – to lose their freedom and ability to see friends and family – than they are to get vaccinated?

Vaccine hesitancy

The most recent poll from Essential Media on vaccinations showed that just over half of Aussies said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible, or already have been vaccinated (52 per cent). While 36 per cent said they would get vaccinated but not straight away and 13 per cent now say they would never get vaccinated.

Ignoring the 13 per cent of anti-vaxxers, the worrying figure is the 36 per cent who would get vaccinated but not straight away.

It makes me wonder what they are waiting for? The pandemic has been blighting our lives and economy for over a year now, it isn’t going away – the recent Sydney outbreak has proven that.

In fact, it’s getting worse. This Delta variant is so infectious a Sydney case was caused by a “scarily fleeting” encounter between two people who briefly walked past each other at Bondi Junction Westfield.

Do Aussies need this outbreak to get really bad and see tragic images like those from Brazil and India for us to take action and get vaccinated?

RELATED: This is what we know about AstraZeneca

Yes, vaccinated people can still get covid

A common attempt at reasoning I’ve heard from vaccine naysayers is that vaccinated people are still getting covid, which is true.

“There is a small risk that some fully vaccinated people will get infected. This is known as a ‘breakthrough infection’ – and it’s entirely expected,” wrote biomedical scientist Tara Hurst for The Conversation.

“The seasonal flu vaccine offers protection from the circulating viruses. But the circulating flu viruses vary, and vaccinated people may still get ill but have less severe illness,” added Hurst.

And that’s the point – vaccination doesn’t mean striving for eradication, it’s striving for some semblance of normality. It’s striving for covid not to be a widespread killer. It’s striving for the end of panicked lockdowns.

Many Australians have become so obsessed with zero cases – doughnut days! – that they are more willing to be locked down in their own homes than face the reality that vaccination doesn’t mean the end of covid.

But even if Aussies did want to get vaccinated, could they?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison likes to point out that “Australia is the envy of the world” for how it’s handled Covid-19. But our vaccine rollout certainly isn’t the envy of the world.

The Essential Media survey also found that only 43 per cent of Australians are confident the rollout is being done efficiently.

In the US – the country renowned for expensive and unattainable healthcare – you can nip to your local pharmacy to get the jab (for free). While in the UK the NHS has set up hospital hubs, made it available at GPs and set up dedicated vaccination centres.

As a comparison, recent figures showed Australia had delivered 23 doses per 100 people while the UK had delivered 106.1 doses per 100 people in the UK and 92.9 in the US. Most vaccines require two doses.

As well as lack of availability, the rollout here has been marred by the uncertainly around AstraZeneca and the low risk of getting a blood clot. (The risk of dying from TTS after getting AstraZeneca is very low. There have been two deaths from about four million shots.)

Never the less, the fear seems to have been enough for many Aussies to justify stalling having the vaccine and labelling themselves vaccine hesitant.

Of course, the UK and the US had much higher motivation for their vaccine rollout to work – there have been 128,000 deaths in the UK and an astounding 603,000 in the US, while Australia has suffered 910.

Sadly, maybe Australia needs more Australians to die for us to start queuing for vaccinations instead of volunteering for lockdowns.

Riah Matthews is the commissioning editor for news.com.au.

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