Non-Aussie friends may not get the reference in the heading to today’s post. Our Prime Minister loves to pretend to be at one with the people by excitedly declaring ‘How good is Australia’. But right now, in reference to the global COVID vaccine rollout, Australia is not good at all. In fact, I’d say we’re pretty bloody hopeless. My heart breaks for the sacrifices we all made last year that have resulted in us being pretty much at zero COVID – something the PM can take no credit for considering he wanted us to ‘learn to live with the virus’. 

But to answer the question posed in my post title literally: COVID vaccines are fucking amazing. A well-vaccinated population is the only way we get out of this pandemic, and the data on the vaccines is very promising. 

What is not good is the complete and utter bungling of the rollout that we are dealing with here in Australia. We started late; accessing a vaccine is proving impossible for many people; quarantine and front-line workers have not all been vaccinated as a priority, GPs don’t have vaccines available for their clinics; there remains a risk of the vaccine escaping hotel quarantine settings into a largely unvaccinated community, and, it seems, that we have limited quantities of vaccines available. Plus, the decision to effectively put too many vaccine eggs in one basket has backfired due to the changing advice regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. To top it all off, the comms plan has been a debacle – and continues to be, most recently with the PM having decided that Facebook will be the channel he uses to update the public on our now non-existent vaccine targets. (He also told us to not use Facebook as a source of information, but I guess that was a few weeks ago, and we need to keep up with the merry-go-round.)

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are concerned, confused and unsure of what they should be doing. While the information that was released in a hastily organised presser at 7.30pm last Thursday night wasn’t all that much of a surprise, considering what was unfolding in other countries, some people started to feel a lot of unease. There has been a plenty of discussion in online diabetes groups about what the best course forward is. While the Pfizer vaccine is the preferred choice for anyone under 50 years (here in Australia – it’s different ages in other countries), there is very limited Pfizer available. If you are under 50 years, you can still choose to have the AZ vaccine if that is all that is available to you, however both NSW and Vic have currently stopped giving AZ to anyone under 50 until there is revised informed consent materials available. 

I had my first AZ vaccine three weeks ago after spending three hours on the phone finding a GP clinic that had available doses and would see me if I hadn’t already been to the clinic. I had no side effects at all. Both my parents and parents-in-law have had the AZ vaccine and I know a lot of people in the diabetes community both here in Australia and overseas who have had it with, at worst, typical side effects. At a breakfast the other day with some Loopers, three of us had already had the AZ jab and none of us had reactions. I will be very confidently and happily rolling my sleeves up for my second jab in June, so that I can be fully vaccinated.

For me there is a simple equation that I used to make my decision, and for the assurance I feel. As a person living with diabetes, the risk of complications from COVID if I were to catch it are far greater than the risks of an adverse event from having the vaccine. It’s that simple. Plus, I have a responsibility to get the vaccine because there will be people in the community who cannot, due to (real) medical reasons.

The question for people with diabetes now – especially those under 50 years of age – is what does that equation look like for them. What is their risk assessment? The likelihood of a blood clot after an AZ jab is tiny, but there are some people who are at an increased risk. How does that weigh up to the chance of getting COVID – and the complications that may follow – if there is another wave?

Right now, it’s understandable that there are people with diabetes who are feeling very anxious about that possiblity of another wave as we head into colder months, and also not being able to get vaccinated, or being very unsure about whether they should have the AZ vaccine. Diabetes Australia has offered this advice for people with diabetesand at least one thing that is consistent from all reputable sources, is that the chance of a clot is very, very small.

For anyone minimising the concerns that some people may be feeling, just remember that it is people with diabetes who were included in the Everyone will be fine as long as you’re not old or unwell’ statements that were common when COVID started over twelve months ago. The impact on the mental health of people who started to feel disposable is very real. Those statements are still around, although some people added ‘Well YOU can stay home until you can get a vaccine and let the rest of us get on with things.’ That’s all good and well…if the vaccine rollout was working. It is not. 

This is a troubling time. Australia’s record with COVID has been excellent, thanks to outstanding leadership from our state governments. It is a shame that, according to this article from The Monthly, we are now faced with the likelihood of another wave of the virus, more lockdowns, and travel restrictions for a number of years to come. How good are COVID vaccines? They’re bloody brilliant. But only if they’re in the arms of people.

Jabbed. 25 March 2021

More musings on vaccines

This interweb jumble.

This about how vaccines don’t cause type 1 diabetes.

This about last year’s flu vax.

And another year’s flu vax.

Not a debate.