COVID-19 vaccine
(Image: Samuel Corum/Getty)

There’s no doubt the topic of vaccinations — particularly who gets which (AstraZeneca or Pfizer) — is still a hot one. And while some Crikey readers are happy simply to be protected against COVID-19, many others are worried about potential side effects and efficacy, and there’s an overwhelming call for more choice in the matter.

Marilyn Lake writes: I have decided not to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because the Pfizer presents less risk of severe side effects. I am wary of these side effects because of a past traumatic personal experience. I am also very tired of being condescended to about minimal risk. We do indeed take risks all the time and we decide which risks are worth taking. Moreover I think the decision to prevent people over 50 from getting Pfizer is discriminatory, ageist and possibly, therefore, illegal.

Jim Blundell writes: Why the verbal gymnastics inventing new words where old, understandable ones will do. Vaccine “hesitancy”? Why not suspicion, confusion, doubt, even “issues” caused by selectively chosen medical advice and pollywaffle? Cut the crap please.

Mike Buky writes: With untrustworthy ministers and politicised chief medical officers blended in a soup of misinformation and contradiction, there is no surprise that some are vaccine-hesitant. For the record, I cite my vaccine record booklet, which lists cholera, TAB, plague, polio, smallpox and yellow fever with many repeats as evidence for vaccine compliance during previous travels. I also have the flu jab annually.

My analysis of the data is that the Pfizer jab is more effective than the AZ not only against the COVID-19 base strain but also against the variants. There have been NO side effects reported for the Pfizer bar a possible couple of cases of myocarditis in children reported in the US. Israel and New Zealand are giving only Pfizer and in the UK it is optional. The 12-week gap for the second dose of the AZ is a further disincentive, and would be unable to give full protection rapidly in the event of an outbreak for the unvaxxed. A booster looks probable next year and many sources say that mixing brands needs more research before administering. Preferring to stick the minimum of needles in my arm as possible, there really is little choice.

Michael Begley writes: Australia has done an excellent job in keeping COVID-19 to now just close to zero. If we had enough Pfizer we would not be using AstraZeneca. But we don’t have enough. So if we wait, at what stage will +50s be able to get vaccinated? Will we be able to get the +40s’, and they wait longer? I don’t think that will happen. To get to all of the government agencies both state and federal to agree will not happen.

I am 65. I don’t want the AstraZeneca, but common sense says to me that I don’t want to risk getting COVID-19. I can’t afford to wait. I don’t want to get sick. It is a fine balance what you choose to do. I believe that we will not be able to keep the virus out to the level we have now … when we get a third wave, and it will come, we need to have as many vaccinated as we can. We can only do this by using AstraZeneca, it is a simple manner of mathematics. Given the choice in Victoria 12 months ago, the AstraZeneca would be fully booked. So, think about it and do it your way — don’t be influenced by the neighbour, the Uber driver. I would rather have blood clots then COVID-19 at my age. Just things to think about. No one has the silver bullet answer here.

Andrew Jagels writes: So far my wife (68) and I (66) have opted against the AZ vaccine, preferring to wait for an mRNA vaccine. Her reasoning is more emotional (“how dare Scott Morrison take Pfizer and give it to young folk leaving us disposable oldies to our fate?”). I’m more concerned with relative efficacy, and have thought the mRNA vaccines more effective. I’m not worried about the tiny clotting risk. Reading the UK report linked from today’s Crikey, however, might promote a rethink. As we are both healthcare professionals, we should be influenced by emerging evidence of efficacy.

Loretta Salta writes: I am well over 50 but do not want the AstraZeneca vaccine. Why are they forcing older Australians into having AstraZeneca when we should have a choice like Scott Morrison did?I want the Pfizer jab and should be allowed to have what I want not what the government wants.

Anna Leahy writes: I agree with all the over-50s’ comments regarding the Australian government attempting to emotionally blackmail the older generation … I still have not seen any information that indicates how long AstraZeneca’s immunity is effective for post-vaccination. I have just read the Queensland Premier (who is over 50), somehow managed to get the Pfizer vaccine and her Chief Medical Officer, when questioned, stated she was also getting Pfizer. I am sure the premier will spin she had to accept Pfizer because she might be attending the Olympic Games and had to take the vaccine that offered the shortest turnaround time for full vaccination. Mind you, she could have had the AstraZeneca in time, had she done it when other politicians received theirs.

So, because we are older, have paid taxes all our lives, aren’t in a position of power, and have contributed for decades in a multitude of ways, to make this a great country, we are now asked, no told, to step up again for the good of the nation and accept a less than effective vaccine with “minimal” but real life-threatening side effects. I sympathise with the government for “backing” the wrong horse in a very uncertain vaccine race, but why should the over-50s pay the price with the quality of their lives, or in rare, but real occurrences, their actual lives? I have read that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more expensive than AstraZeneca, and if the government wants me to pay for my vaccine, I am very happy to do that in an effort to get the vaccine of my choice. That is a “discrimination” I can live with.

Fiona MacLachlan writes: I’m 53 and in the 1B group of vulnerable Australians after having radiation therapy for cancer last year, so fall into the AZ age group but I’m holding out for Pfizer or Moderna later in the year, as are most of my friends. This is a big topic of conversation amongst my peers and even with all the information out there about blood clots being a tiny risk, every time the media reports on a new case — last one I heard was a man in SA who is the same age as me — it just makes us feel like it’s a risk we aren’t willing to take and I can tell you this conversation always starts out as “I’m not an anti-vaxxer but…“

I also live in Perth where community spread has been minimal so I feel like holding out for Pfizer or Moderna isn’t a risk and that is a common thread in conversations also. Plus, who needs their government telling them what vaccination they must have according to their age? I’d rather take that advice from my GP and have a choice in what vaccination to have dependent on my medical history and not my age.

Claire Pullen writes: I’m a 1B, so I had my first shot of AZ… the day the advisory came out against them. I have underlying chronic health conditions that put me at risk of clotting as it is — but the far, far bigger risk to me is COVID itself. There’s very little chance I’d survive a COVID infection.

Not everyone has experience weighing and managing risk in health decisions, and I don’t blame people for waiting when our states have done a mostly effective job closing the borders. The real issue, of course, is that I and everyone else should have had a choice of vaccines much earlier than we did, and the bungled rollout (I had to contact three GPs, mine still doesn’t have stock) means we aren’t able to make good decisions with good information in good time, and that’s the real problem.

Russell Moore writes: When the GFC hit, the government guaranteed bank savings up to $1M. This stopped a run on the banks and cost the government nothing. I suggest the government guarantees their faith in AstraZeneca by a similar offering of $1M to the estate of anyone who dies from complications from an AZ shot. (They could also add $500K for anyone who needs surgery and $250K for anyone who needs hospitalisation.) This would cost very little if, as they say, the AZ shot is perfectly safe. (So far probably about $10M for the 20 or so cases and one unfortunate death.) Older people would see this as a good legacy and younger families as good insurance. If this guarantee existed, I would have an AZ shot straight away. Many others may think likewise. Offering people $50 (ABC news) is ridiculous.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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