Weighing up the real risks with AstraZeneca

 Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

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Weighing up the real risks with AstraZeneca

Twenty-nine per cent of adult Australians surveyed have reported they are unlikely to get the COVID-19 jab (The Age, 19/5). The sideeffects are the most commonly cited reason, but many people also believe there is no rush to be vaccinated. This is despite exhortations from experts who tell us that we are not done with COVID-19 yet and a level of herd immunity is essential for the safe opening of our borders.

These results show a lack of understanding of what it really means for about five people per million succumbing to blood clots from the AstraZeneca. People notoriously have a problem evaluating the risk associated with low probability events. We tend to overestimate the likelihood of a desired event (winning a lottery), and underestimate it when it is unwanted (a road crash while speeding). Public information campaigns should be helping us interpret how vaccine risk compares with other risks that we take every day.

We need posters, jingles and humour to grab our attention. Free give-aways are used as rewards for jabs in some countries. Our advertising creatives are good at selling us anything they turn their minds to. Where are they when we really need them?
Kathy Deutsch, Kew

For many of us, fears about blood clots are genuine

I want a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, as do many of my peers. However, rightly or wrongly, AstraZeneca has had a lot of bad press, and the prospect of a blood clot is unsettling. If the federal government is serious about getting people across the line to be vaccinated, it needs to face the facts (perception is everything) and do what it can to increase the supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. If that happens, we will be queueing around the block.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

Media contributing to denial of science and logic

I am in my late 70s and old enough to remember serious diseases of the past – diphtheria, polio, measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough and small pox, to name a few. Admittedly, these did not close down our economy or our country but we felt morally responsible to take precautions, including vaccines when they were available.

What has happened with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout? Apart from a non-existent marketing and public education campaign and confused communications at a federal level, we have the 24/7 news hounds spreading hysteria. This has confused people, and science and logic have been denied in the process. Let us do what we did in the past. Follow the science and medical research and support the general public by getting vaccinated.It is a moral duty.
Robert McDonald, Sailors Falls

We should be putting the poor countries first

I agree with John Johnson (Letters, 20/5). I would rather vulnerable people were vaccinated before me. In fact, I go further. There are heroic front-line workers battling the virus in poor countries the world over with no vaccines available. Australia should give vaccines to these countries before me.
Alan Dowsley, Preston

For herd immunity, I decided to “just do it”

Like other correspondents, I wondered if I should have the vaccination when offered the opportunity by my GP. I qualified for it as I am over 70 but I am otherwise healthy and considered others’ needs may be more urgent. I decided to proceed and got an an appointment on April 1. Experts advise that we need 70 to 80per cent of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, so I think the answer is to just do it.
April Baragwanath, Geelong

A sure-fire lure for Australians: tax rebates with jabs

Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion that too many in Australia are primarily motivated by money. Put this with the government’s ideology, based on lowering taxes, the solution to the slow vaccine take-up is obvious. Offer tax rebates to the vaccinated.
Michael Hipkins, Richmond


The risks of coronavirus

Yes, the AstraZeneca vaccine has very, rare dangerous side effects, but what are the odds of getting really sick or dying from COVID-19 if you contract it? Have people forgotten the fear that enveloped our nation in the early stages of the pandemic? Please, let us all get vaccinated as soon as possible and trounce this terrible disease. This will enable us to get back to a stage where we can open up to the rest of the world without endangering a large part of the community.
Bill Proctor, Launching Place

Bring Australians home

Most of us know someone whose close family are still in India. Many went there to help their families stricken by COVID-19, and many more are still here and desperate for their loved ones to come home safely. We should look up from our fortress mentality and repatriate every single Australian who needs to return. We should also try to get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is the best thing we can do to ensure Australia is safe for those returning from the world-wide dangers of COVID-19.
Linda Skinner, Mooroolbark

Prioritise quarantine hubs

Why won’t this government build quarantine centres? People wanting to come here do not need luxury hotels. We need to get people here for both compassionate and practical reasons. There are many locations that could safely be used. Victoria has suggested one site but has to wait until July for an answer. Building could be done quickly and would provide employment. Such centres would also bring back the people we desperately need to fill jobs to revitalise the economy and universities, and to provide health care. They could be repurposed later as emergency housing.
Jacqueline Kenna, Kew

Don’t all deaths count?

Virgin Airlines chief executive Jane Hrdlicka says the federal government should speed up the plan to open our borders as people are vaccinated, adding “some people may die, but it will be way smaller than the flu”. Why are people so uppity about this comment? If we were at all concerned about people dying unnecessarily, then we would have banned motor vehicles.
Greg Brown, Tarneit

Sadly, illogical logic

We used to have the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital but that was closed. Now there is a proposal to build a new infectious diseases facility. We used to have quarantine stations around the country but they were closed and now we have Howard Springs and a proposal from the Victorian government to build a new facility at Mickleham. A far from clever country.
Jack Morris, Kennington

Battling future pandemics

We are where we are with the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout because, unlike other emergencies, natural disasters and in wartime, we have no trained, rehearsed and strongly led national force to take responsibility for dealing with disastrous health events. We need an equivalent to the US’ Centres for Disease Control, but with teeth, to prevent and battle pandemics.

The politicians’ only job should be to ensure there is such a force, it is well trained and equipped, and there are adequate stockpiles of the appropriate “material”. In the absence of such a centre, we have seen the result manifest here and around the globe: politicians seizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to cast themselves as decisive leaders – even nation saviours – of their time.
Michael Feeney, Malvern

A bold step forward or …

It is welcome news that a second safe injecting room will open in the Flinders Street precinct (The Age, 18/5). Congratulations to the lord mayor, Sally Capp, for showing leadership and giving her “qualified support” for this life-saving service.

As a regular visitor to the city, I am aware of the drug problem and the need to urgently address it. I am also aware of the importance of consultation with the local community.
Concerns raised must be genuine community concerns, not those with personal or hidden agendas. Safe injecting rooms offer support and hope where currently there is none.
Sue McNamara, Rye

… a recipe for disaster?

Is the Flinders Street area about to become the equivalent of “Needle Park” in Zurich? Pre-1992, the Zurich City Government, City Parliament and other authorities implemented a wide range of permissive drug policies, including allowing free use of drugs in the park. It was adjacent to Zurich Central Railway Station and the Swiss National Museum. I saw numerous affected addicts stumbling out of the park into adjoining streets.

Over the years the situation spiralled out of control, with hundreds of dealers and addicts packed into the park, and many people needing urgent medical attention. “Needle Park” was closed in February 1992. A heavy gate was put in place across the entrance.
Margo Teschendorf, Toorak

A lesson from Richmond

Positive reports about the success of the drug-injecting room in Richmond ignore the increased levels of anxiety experienced by local residents and schoolchildren whose welfare and feelings of fear are discounted. This facility, next to a school, puts the safety of drug users above that of the community: it must be relocated to a place where little children are not put at risk. Accusations about a NIMBY response are unjustified and facile.
Fay Maglen, Abbotsford

Very few tigers here

Tim Pallas says that if the engine of Australia’s economy is “roaring back to life, it’s because Victoria put the tiger in the tank” (The Age, 20/5). No, Treasurer. Any roaring is due to a hoon driver burning taxpayers’ money in the acrid smoke of public service pay increases and media ads whilst Victoria spins in confusion.
Michael Doyle, Ashburton

Why the report’s secrecy?

The firefighters union fought for the report into bullying and sexism in Victoria’s fire services to remain confidential, then some members allegedly bully a woman, Victorian MP Jane Garrett (The Age, 20/5). Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why trade union membership has fallen from 40per cent to 14per cent since the 1990s. Maybe firefighters who are not union members should consider how they are being represented and whether they would like to take control of that message.
Janine Truter, The Basin

Schools’ rich diversity

Federal Education Alan Tudge says Australian children should learn about their Western heritage because they would be less likely to defend their “free, rich, egalitarian liberal democracy” if they do not understand it (The Age, 20/5).

What about their Eastern, Persian, Arabic or Eastern European heritages? Schools are fascinatingly multicultural places, where children from enormously diverse backgrounds are creating ways of understanding themselves and others that puts the simplistic reductionism of Tudge’s thinly veiled colonialism to shame.
Stephen Morley, Blackburn

Show us, don’t tell us

Alan Tudge wants children to be taught about our Western heritage so they will defend our “liberal democracy”. Having a government that was not constantly trashing democratic traditions such as basic honesty, governing for all the people, ministerial responsibility etc, is more important in getting young people to respect our liberal democracy. People of all ages are losing faith in our democratic system because our political leaders are so ineffective, self-serving and selfish.
Grant Nichol, Ringwood North

Lure for NSW voters and …

With this weekend’s byelection in the seat of Upper Hunter, perhaps the announcement of a $600million, gas-fired electricity plant at Kurri Kurri (The Age, 20/4) is an attempt by Scott Morrison to “curry favour” with the voters. When they discover it is their money, they may lose their appetites.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn

… for those in Victoria?

I am a retired senior transport engineer and town planner. I support John Hearsch’s view that the Victorian government’s proposed rail super loop is premature and will inhibit higher-priority rail projects, such as the Metro 2 tunnel and the completion of the electrification of rail lines serving outer growth areas (Opinion, 18/5). Even though the government has not provided any patronage estimates or a business case for this project, it seems hell bent on starting work on the Cheltenham to Glen Waverley section next year before the next state election. It could be concluded the proposal is a cynical exercise to entice votes in the marginal electorates in the sand belt and middle eastern suburbs.
Bob Evans, Glen Iris

Not so safe from war

Scott Morrison assures us that “Australians can always rely on the Coalition governments to do what’s right in Australia’s national security interests” (The Age, 20/5). Was that why it brought in conscription in the 1960s and sent our young men off to a disastrous and tragic war in Vietnam?
Margaret Bryceland, Truganina

A prior opportunity

Outnumbered, outgunned and outclassed? Oh well. I’ll walk into a tackle and get a ball-up. How good is AFL football’s “no prior” rule? It goes against the spirit of the game.
Stephen Mills, Blackburn South

Put the profits to wages

The article about Melbourne Symphony Orchestra posting one of its biggest profits in recent history (The Age, 19/5) made for interesting reading. Recently I booked seats for a current production and it was accompanied by a request for a donation to ensure the ongoing viability of the orchestra. Is management intending to return the wage structure that was in place before the pandemic, rather than still paying musicians 80 per cent of their contracted salaries, despite their being back in full-time work, as Nick Miller says?
John Paine, Kew East


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Gas-fired power plant

The weight of the albatross around Morrison’s neck – the gas plant paid for by sceptical taxpayers.
Rob Ward, Lake Tyers Beach

Would someone tell Scott that natural gas is a toxic fossil fuel too.
Bryan Lewis, St Helena

Is the PM kowtowing to the conservative rump or banking on divine intervention to save the planet
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Why the alarm? Like many of the government’s schemes, the plant won’t get beyond the announcement.
Ruben Buttigieg, Mount Martha

Madness. The Morrison government’s power station. The Andrews government’s decision to open new gas drilling.
Nick Jans, Princes Hill

Vaccine hesitancy

There’ll probably be a rush on vaccines at some point. If you thought missing out on dunny paper was serious …
John Simmonds, Collingwood

We need a promotion campaign by sport stars, movie stars, pop stars, influencers – the most important, credible people in our society.
Ralph Böhmer, St Kilda West

For yourself and your country, get vaccinated, particularly while the centres have unused capacity.
John Groom, Bentleigh


Re Dyson’s “hermit kingdom” cartoon (20/5). How about a hermit democracy? Or hermit coalition? Preferably of the willing.
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris

Surely Hamas knows firing rockets into Israel will result in the deaths of its Gazan civilians. In our legal system, is that manslaughter?
Ron Slamowicz, Caulfield North

Re Netanyahu. It’s a textbook manoeuvre to start a war when one’s political popularity and security is weakened.
Jane Laver, St Kilda

With his $3-plus million contract extension (20/5), Max King can afford a goal-kicking coach St Kilda hasn’t been able to provide.
Ian Clemens, Flora Hill

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