Vaccine hesitancy is causing a public health risk, says Dr Simon Holliday of the Taree HealthHub and Respiratory Clinic on NSW's North Coast, and if we don't act now, we are risking disaster.
"We are in a fool's paradise at the moment. We are not using this golden opportunity to protect ourselves. We're looking a gift horse in the mouth, this small period of time we've got."
He, like medical professionals everywhere, is concerned and frustrated at the levels of hesitancy in the population about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. Reports are that a lot of people are wanting to wait until the Pfizer vaccine becomes available at the end of 2021, rather than be given AstraZeneca vaccine now, fearing they will die from blood clots.
"Everyone's saying "I'll just see how it goes", but when it comes, it's going to be too late," Dr Holliday says.
"You don't clean your gutters on your roof just before the embers start forming. We have to realise this is a natural disaster and do what we can do to protect ourselves and our family, and that means get out and get vaccinated.
"It's about relative risk. Everyone hears there's this problem with this nasty illness (blood clots) and one person has died from it, and therefore 'it's going to happen to me. I don't want to die'."
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However, statistics clearly show you are at a much greater risk of CVT (cerebral vein thrombosis) if you have COVID-19 than you are if you have the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"The whole thing about COVID is, people die if they get the bleeding clotting, the immune system goes mad. So people get clots everywhere, clots through their organs, they bleed everywhere, it's just a disaster. It's a horrific illness," Dr Holliday says.
Data gathered to date in the US shows that 39 people per million (0.0039 per cent) who had COVID-19 had reported cases of CVT, compared to only five people in a million (0.0005 per cent) who were given AstraZeneca, and four in a million (0.0004 per cent) for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine.
The research shows that you are eight times greater to be at risk of CVT by having COVID than you are of having the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 10 times greater than if you have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
"Everybody's scared. We're a traumatised community, we've been terrified and affected by drought, and frightened by bushfires, we were surrounded by smoke and then we've had COVID and floods. And I think we're expressing that fear as 'here's something we can be afraid of, and we can avoid one scary thing'," Dr Holliday says.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the world's population is exposed to this as a common virus. We won't be able to keep it out. When it comes, it's so important we've got this breathing space to get our population vaccinated. We don't want to go like India, or the way the UK or US was.
"With the rest of the world struggling to get the vaccine because of the overwhelming problems, we've got to seize the day."
To check if you are eligible for vaccination and to find a location near you to be vaccinated at, go to covid-vaccine.healthdirect.gov.au/eligibility.