The pandemic has interrupted young lives (Image: Adobe)

As we watch from afar as crowds fill stadiums and travel resumes overseas, Australia, once the envy of the world for its COVID-19 management, now seems to have fallen behind.

No one is feeling the impact of Australia’s COVID failures more sorely than young Australians, who with each lockdown and each day of closed borders lose a little more of what are supposed to be the greatest years of our lives. So it’s no surprise that when Prime Minister Scott Morrison (potentially accidentally) announced under-40s could request an AstraZeneca shot from their GP, many young adults jumped at the chance.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been missing many things, among them: sufficient supply; effective administration; convincing marketing; and clear messaging. But an absent element that rests in the hands of the public is momentum. Due to Australia’s elimination approach to COVID, and the relatively normal way of life many of us had been leading until recently, there has been next to no sense of urgency to get to the vaccine finish line. Young Australians, however, feel differently.

The mood among my friends and peers in their 20s and 30s is that we are itching to get vaccinated. Many (including myself) are considering taking up the loophole and requesting the out-of-favour “AZ” vaccine. On Twitter, several under-40s shared they had secured a doctor’s appointment and received the AZ shot within 24 hours of Morrison’s press conference. It seems many of us are simply not willing to wait.

Why does this sense of urgency exist among young Australians, but not older generations? I’d posit that while older and vulnerable Australians are most affected by getting COVID, it’s young Australians who bear the brunt of the repeated and unexpected lockdowns used to maintain our elimination strategy. From high school sport through to uni graduation, or even budget travel while we’re relatively free of obligations, the longer the pandemic drags on, the more Australia’s youth will miss out on seminal experiences we’ll never be able to get back.

Experiences such as being a Year 12 student, for example, are a one-time-only deal. These are formative, crucial years in a person’s life that have been irretrievably taken from young people, and this will continue until we seriously start looking for the exit. While I would never seek to suggest one group of Australians are uniquely victimised by this pandemic, I think the fleeting nature of youth explains why young Aussies are so determined to take up the mantle for themselves and do anything they can to end the lockdowns and invigorate the vaccine rollout with the momentum it so desperately needs.

As for why young people are potentially less likely to be tentative about the risks of the AZ shot? It could be youthful invincibility, or maybe the general sentiment among youth in favour of vaccines, but I think it’s the numbers. The messaging on the risks have been so inconsistent that naturally people have ended up doing their own analysis. Many of my female friends cited the contraceptive pill comparison as a compelling justification. While not a perfect analogy (the type of clot and risk of death differ), the contraceptive pill is statistically much more likely to cause a blood clot than the AZ vaccine. Many of us were prescribed the pill as teenagers without much thought, and some have been on it for years, so the logical leap is an easy one.

For me personally, I am incredibly tempted to do my bit to get the momentum moving towards an end to this wretched saga.

Josefine Ganko is a final year law and public policy student at the ANU and a former editor at Woroni.