explainer

Just for the record: Hardly anyone is eligible for a vaccine exemption.

Over the weekend, Home and Away actress and former Bachelorette Sam Frost made headlines Australia-wide as her home state of NSW prepared to give freedoms back to vaccinated residents on Monday. 

On Saturday morning she released a video telling her more than 500,000 Instagram followers that she is not vaccinated. She also said she felt like she was having "a really hard time in society right now" because of her decision. 

"You feel like you are less of a human and you feel like people judge you,” she said.

“And you’re too scared to talk about your opinion or your feelings and part of you wants to go, ‘Well it’s none of your damn business why I’m not! And there’s good reasons why I’m not but I don’t want you to judge me’.

“It’s just a really hard time.”

The condemnation of Frost's video was swift, in part because she used the term 'segregation' to refer to unvaccinated Australians not being allowed to participate in society alongside those who are vaccinated. 

But while there are a plethora of valid reasons why Frost's video upset people, there's one in particular we'd like to discuss. 

Let's be clear; Mamamia doesn't condone bullying or sending mean, horrible comments to a woman who has since deleted her Instagram altogether. 

The 32-year-old told us in her video her mental health was struggling, and she's no doubt feeling even worse since the subsequent fallout. 

But we can talk constructively about what Frost said, and we should do so in the middle of a pandemic reliant on vaccines to get us out the other end. This kind of misinformation needs to be explained and debunked so that the community understands the urgency of this fight, and the facts around who is and is not 'medically exempt' from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

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"There are lots of different reasons why people aren't getting vaccinated — and it might be because of their medical history, their concerns they might have, family history, it could be religious reasons...there are many many many many reasons...there are a few reasons why I'm not," Frost said in her video. 

She added that she'd spoken to her doctor and her psychologist, but was "going to keep that private."

But scientifically speaking, there are very few 'reasons' not to be vaccinated.

As the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation states: "There are very few situations where a vaccine is contraindicated and as such, medical exemption is expected to be rarely required."

A temporary exemption may be granted if you are having acute major surgery or have been admitted to hospital for a serious illness. 

Examples given by ATAGI include; inflammatory cardiac illness within the past six months, or COVID itself. However ATAGI recently changed the guidelines for the latter indiciating that those who've had a COVID-19 infection should have their vaccine as soon as they are recovered, as vaccination gives stronger immunity than "natural immunity."

If you've had an adverse reaction while getting the vaccine, such as thrombosis from AstraZeneca or you're allergic to either polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, or polysorbate 80, which is in the AstraZeneca vaccine, you are eligible for an exemption against the particular vaccine you reacted to. 

Luckily, however, we have more than one. 

"If you can't have one vaccine, you can have another," President of the RACGP Dr Karen Price told Sunrise. 

As Sydney GP Dr Brad McKay reiterated to Mamamia, "The chance of having a medical contraindication or being allergic to all the vaccines available is slim-to-none."

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Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance told The Age, you can even get the vaccine if you're having chemotheraphy, or undergoing serious medical procedures like an organ or bone marrow transplant. 

Why?

Because the vaccines are safe, they're working and they're giving us our lives back. 

They are protecting our most vulnerable, like those undergoing chemo for cancer, from COVID-19. 

As Dr McKay explains, "No one is immune. We will all either get vaccinated or get COVID-19. Some of us will still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated, but at least it will give your immune system a fighting chance against a potentially lethal virus."

Watch: How to talk to an anti-vaxxer. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Of the entire global population, 47 per cent has had at least one dose of a vaccine as we race to contain a virus that's so far killed more than 5 million people since early 2020. 

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory in Australia.

But if you choose not to participate in protecting yourself and your community from the virus and you don't fall into the very few aforementioned medical categories, that's on you. Those around you have the right to protect themselves from the risk you pose by choosing not to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

It's not harsh and it's not mean and it's certaintly not segregation. It's about keeping the community safe in the midst of a global pandemic. 

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Feature image: Getty.

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