Doing your part: The effect you have on others after being vaccinated

Sharyn Thompson (left) and little Charlie Rixon ,with his mum Cassie Jones, have even more reason to hope for increased COVID vaccination rates.
Sharyn Thompson (left) and little Charlie Rixon ,with his mum Cassie Jones, have even more reason to hope for increased COVID vaccination rates.

As parts of the nation experience a number of differing health-based restrictions to curb a recent wave of confirmed COVID cases, we are all being reminded to get vaccinated as soon as we can.

For some, this is too much to ask. For different and sometimes valid reasons people are hesitant about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine for example - which is now only recommended for people over 60 - while others are acting on false information they've read or seen.

These latest health measures are in place not only to protect the community but also those that cannot be vaccinated themselves or are vulnerable in different ways.

The Mudgee Guardian, in the NSW central west, spoke with people in its community who are vulnerable as well as a Sydney professor whose expertise is in health policy, public health, immunisation controversies, risk communication, vaccination rates and COVID-19.

Not a relaxed attitude

Cassie Jones' world changed six years ago after her son Charlie Rixon was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

It's a life-threatening respiratory condition that causes an abnormal amount of excessively thick and sticky mucus within the lungs, airways and digestive system.

While COVID-19 has ramped up again in Sydney, it might seem like Mudgee is protected in its distance from the major metro cities.

But Ms Jones can't afford to take such a relaxed attitude while her son is at risk.

IN IT TOGETHER: Cassie Jones with her son Charlie Rixon who has cystic fibrosis.

IN IT TOGETHER: Cassie Jones with her son Charlie Rixon who has cystic fibrosis.

"I think that unless you're a part of the chronic illness community, I don't actually think people realise how many people are actually at risk," she said.

"After the diagnosis, my eyes were opened to how many people are actually battling serious conditions and how many are at risk of things like viruses like this."

Nearly half of Australians had a chronic illness between 2018 and 2019, according to the ABS.

While around five per cent of people suffer from an autoimmune disease, which include a broad range of more than 80 related disorders that vary from common to rare, according to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA).

Ms Jones has been concerned that people have failed to consider their civic duty to the community when it comes to being vaccinated.

"Those who are at risk of dying, or at risk of severe illness as a result of infectious diseases like COVID, I think they shouldn't have to risk their health just to preserve the general public's misguided feelings," she said.

"I think there's a greater issue about the protection of your community and those around you that I think people should be looking at."

A flawed perspective

University of Sydney public health Professor Julie Leask said the belief that unvaccinated individuals can't affect vaccinated people is flawed.

"If you have enough people saying, 'I don't need to be vaccinated because you're going to be protected,' then you'll have enough of a critical mass to just keep COVID surviving and endemically circulating in a community."

"Vaccines aren't perfect, so you can still get the disease, it's probably not going to be as severe, and that you can still get it and pass it on to others."

'It's really frustrating'

Sharyn Thompson has been battling pancreatic cancer and is desperately waiting to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Mudgee.

"I put a post up on the Mudgee Guardian, asking when Pfizer was going to come over this way. And just people actually laughed at it, it's really frustrating," she said.

"AstraZeneca was only providing a 60 per cent effectiveness rate, and with me being as sick as I am, I really want to have as much protection as possible."

Sharyn Thompson at her home in Mudgee. Supplied

Sharyn Thompson at her home in Mudgee. Supplied

"[It's the] same with my husband, I want him to have as much protection as possible. I want to get our son vaccinated as well, because he's immunocompromised. And that's why until he can get vaccinated, we have to hope that as many people will get vaccinated as possible."

Professor Leask said it was important to keep in mind that vaccine hesitancy was a nuanced issue, and that people who are conflicted about different vaccines are not the same as those who actively refuse all vaccines.

"There's a real risk that is causing genuine concern among people about vaccine safety," she said.

"Some people are only AstraZeneca hesitant. They're not Pfizer hesitant. Some people are Pfizer hesitant, it's a smaller group, but they exist."

Be informed

All testing locations in NSW are listed at www.nsw.gov.au, for more information on COVID-19 vaccination go to www.healthdirect.gov.au.

This story How your Covid-19 vaccination helps the vulnerable first appeared on Mudgee Guardian.