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Why Melbourne's COVID outbreak might solve Australia's vaccination problem.

Here we go again. 

Our news feeds are full of breaking news banners and words like 'lockdown' and 'circuit breaker' and 'cluster' as the virus that has ruled our lives for the past year once again threatens one of our communities. 

On Thursday Victoria announced it will once again enter a stage three lockdown to try to smother a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne's northern suburbs that's jumped to 26 infections in a matter of days. 

Watch: Victoria's most recent press conference. Post continues after video.


Video via Ten.

But this recent cluster has also led to a huge increase in the number of Victorians getting vaccinated.

The number of doses delivered by the state government rose from 8269 on Monday to 15,858 on Tuesday, with the federal government administering a similar number of doses via GP clinics and in the aged care and disability sectors on the same day.

It meant Tuesday was a record vaccination day right across the country, with 104,000 vaccines delivered.

While other countries have been busy vaccinating as many people as possible, Australians - safely tucked away in our island fortress - haven't been showing the same level of urgency to roll up our sleeves and get jabbed. We've also been hindered by the government's sluggish rollout.

But fear and complacency are the two words being used to describe Australians' hesitancy with or without accessibility, with a recent survey by the Sydney Morning Herald and Resolve Strategic, finding that one-third of Australians were unlikely to get vaccinated, which is a higher statistic than reported in previous months.

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Another survey by the Australian National University found that eight in 10 Australians were worried about possible side effects of the vaccine, with just over 50 per cent of those who said they wouldn't take it citing, "recent news about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting."

As Sydney GP Brad McKay told Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, blood clots are his most asked question.

"Usually when I am talking to people over the age of 50, and saying your chance of having a blot clot is one in a million, but we are also getting better at responding to it in knowing what drugs to give people...most people are pretty understanding of that and can assess those risks compared to getting COVID where they've got a much higher risk of dying or being in ICU. So most people are quite happy to go ahead when that's explained to them," he said.

Listen to Brad's interview here. Post continues after podcast.


There are also still a lot of conspiracy theories doing the rounds on social media, all of which have been debunked (listen to Brad do just that in the above Quicky). 

But for the other group of hesitant Australians - the ones driven by complacency. This most recent outbreak appears to be serving as a wake-up call if the uptick in vaccination numbers are anything to go by.

As RACGP President Dr Karen Price told Sky News last week, "I think there’s also some degree of maybe complacency about the fact that we’ve done so well and I guess people have to think about how long do we think we can stay isolated from the rest of the world?

"This virus is not going away it’s with us and we have to get vaccinated and we cannot stay isolated from the rest of the world that’s not a long-term solution – we have to get vaccinated."

But our slow vaccination rates are not just a threat to our global isolation, COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our health. 26 Melburnians in the latest cluster can attest to that, with one of those people in the ICU on a ventilator. 

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As Australian Medical Association Vice President, Dr Chris Moy, told the ABC, without vaccination as protection, our population are quite literally "sitting ducks."

We've had pretty smooth sailing over the past few months, with no major coronavirus scares. We were getting pretty used to living somewhat normally. But that reality was never going to last long term. All the medical experts have told us the virus will just keep finding its way back in. 

It remains as dangerous, as infectious and as threatening to our way of life, freedom and normalcy.

The silver lining of Melbourne's current lockdown hell, is a reminder to us all that this will just keep happening and the best thing we can do, is get vaccinated when we're eligible. 

As Victoria's Acting Premier James Merlino told Thursday's press conference, "the vaccine rollout is not where we hoped it would be. It is not where it should be. If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a very different set of circumstances than we are today. 

"But sadly, we are not. If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us."

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Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley reiterated that getting vaccinated was one of the five permitted reasons to leave home amid the newly imposed lockdown and remains "our only ticket out of this."

Read: Everything you need to know about Victoria's snap 7-day lockdown.

So now that we've had our wake-up call, it's time for the federal government to do their bit.

As the BBC reports, Australia is one of the slowest in the developed world to immunise its population.

Dr McKay confirms access remains his biggest roadblock: "The bigger problem at this point in time is the access to vaccinations. So you can only get the AstraZeneca vaccine if you're at your GP. So younger people who are needing the Pfizer vaccine will need to go to a major hospital or a vaccine hub, and some of the supplies have been slow and delayed. Certainly in my clinic we've been delayed a number of times - we've had to cancel our entire list of people getting vaccinated that day, having to rejig them to another day when the truck has finally arrived." 

So for the average Australian, this is our hesitancy circuit breaker. For the Australian government, it's a hurry along. 

Widespread vaccination is still our number one tool against this virus.

Feature image: Getty.

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