The privilege and risk of getting my COVID jab

I had my first AstraZeneca jab yesterday, late afternoon. It was Take 2. My first booked appointment was for the fourth of May, but it appears ‘the Fourth’ wasn’t with me – as I had only recently had a flu shot. I learned that you need 14 days between the two vaccines.

My local mass vaccination centre is a ten minute walk away from home, at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. Pretty glorious building to hang out in. So much history. And the vibe was positive. All the staff were helpful and friendly behind their masks. Of course, we were all wearing masks, the wardrobe item of choice for these times.

Melbourne diary

Penny Mulvey reports on life during COVID in Melbourne – from lockdown to vaccinations.

There were more than 60 little cubicles, staff at various checkpoints, an observation section for post vaccine, where we all needed to wait for 15 minutes. I received a pre-information sheet and a post-vaccine sheet telling me all the possible side effects which I could expect within one-four days. The blood clotting issue apparently shows itself later – according to the sheet – anywhere from four to 20 days post-injection.

In approximately 90 days, I will return for my second vaccine. Yesterday, at this one mass vaccination centre, the staff have injected well over 1,000 people with their first AstraZeneca shot.

The process was streamlined, efficient, little waiting. I was in and out within 30 minutes, including my observation time. That includes Step 1: QR code check in. Step 2: Desk 1, issuing mask, checking temperature and given an information sheet about the vaccine. Step 3: Laptop checking my details, examining my Medicare card, photo ID, checking contact details. Step 4: Being directed to one side of the building or the other to wait to be called to a cubicle. Step 5: Being called to a cubicle by a friendly nurse in uniform and mask. Step 6: The normal 20 questions – name, address, have you had this or that other medical issue, or have you had any other vaccine in the past 14 days (that’s what ruled me out first time), PLUS questions about a few other nasties. I was also asked ‘which arm?’ Always right for me, as a left hander. I was warned of possible side effects. The injection was reasonably painless. Given a sticker which said ’15 minutes’ and directed to the observation section for Step 7: I was given another info sheet titled ‘After your COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination’.

Probably it was a good thing to get this after the fact because, as with most disclaimers (and if you read the small print on any prescription you pick up, it will list all sorts of horrors that you MIGHT experience), it has to mention the very worst: Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), various dot points and then the final kicker – “People with this condition get very unwell and need to go to hospital. This condition can lead to long-term disability, and even death.”

I knew that before I went. I understand the risks. Taking any medication comes with risks. They are very much the exception, but they can still happen. Each day we take risks. We drive a car. Many people die or are injured in cars, which is devastating, but we take that risk multiple times a day.

Every day, I take a big risk by crossing the road near my house because there are no pedestrian crossings close to where I want to cross. It requires common sense, but it also relies on the drivers being aware and not aiming at me as I navigate my path across the road.

I take Panadol. Asthma medication. Hayfever tablets occasionally. All carry risks. I have the flu shot. Had all my vaccinations growing up. Have had three children (and that also is one of the biggest risks that faces women of a certain age – child birth, but we keep having babies). You could say getting married is a pretty big risk as well, and for some women it can lead to terrible outcomes.

But perhaps what I need to reflect on most of all is what a privilege it is to have access to this vaccine. I attended a Micah Women in Leadership Breakfast earlier this week. Micah Australia’s purpose is to rally Australian Christians into a powerful voice for the world’s most poor, vulnerable and oppressed.

What can I do to ensure that the pandemic does not end for anyone, until it ends for everyone?

Last year Micah launched End COVID for All, reminding Australians that the pandemic doesn’t end for anyone until it ends for everyone.

Tim Costello, Micah Executive Director, reminded the gathering of women that while just this week we passed an incredible milestone with the first one billion vaccines being administered, those, like me, who received the jab are predominantly well off.

“The wealthiest 27 countries have approximately 40 per cent of the world’s vaccines but only 10.8 per cent of the world’s population,” Mr Costello told the gathering.

He quoted the Executive Director of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has reprimanded the wealthy nations for not ensuring the world’s poor have access to the vaccine (the poorest 85 countries have received just 1.3 per cent of the vaccine doses).

Tedros has expressed huge concern about what some African nations have described as “vaccine apartheid”. Dr Tedros warns that “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure”. What does that say to all of us!

What can I do to ensure that the pandemic does not end for anyone, until it ends for everyone?

Mr Costello commended the Federal Government for responding to Micah’s End COVID for All campaign last year, committing to an initial $1.3 billion to help vaccinate the Pacific Islands and other countries in our region.

Do not take for granted your opportunity to be vaccinated against a virus that is decimating so many countries. Do not be complacent that our leaders managed to reel in the grip of the pandemic and make us safe. Yes, there are risks. Life is a risk. But each of us carries a responsibility to protect others from this virus. Get the jab. Take the risk! And why don’t you check out how you can help support Micah’s campaign.