Anti-vaxxers ‘the most ill-informed people in our society’
Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh hasn't minced words after an anti-COVID vaccination rally attracted more than 150 people to Brelsford Park at the weekend.
Asked if he was concerned about opposition to the vaccine, Mr Singh noted he had never been shy in coming out against "anti-vaxxers" and true to his word, the Nationals MP didn't hold back.
"I think they are some of the most ill-informed people that we have in our society," he said.
"The government isn't going to force anybody to get a vaccination, I just think that given all the advances we have had in modern medicine, one of the most important has been the discovery of vaccinations.
"It is very important to get our society back open and back to normal again and this vaccine will be the most important step in doing that."
The vaccine rollout is underway across various parts of the state, with frontline health workers and those working in quarantine environments the first to get the jab.
There is no word yet on when it will formally begin in Coffs Harbour and while there is a designated vaccination hub here, Mr Barilaro said there would be logistical difficulties with rolling out the Pfizer vaccine in regional NSW given its strict storage constraints.
"When you have to store it at -78 degrees it means it's not the vaccine we will use across the board and we will be awaiting the AstraZeneca vaccine," he said.
Mr Barilaro was similarly unperturbed by the demonstrators in Coffs Harbour and didn't think people in regional NSW would be less likely to get vaccinated than their metropolitan counterparts.
"I am confident that if you look at the numbers across previous vaccines … regional communities step up and they are in excess of 94-95 per cent in most cases."
"I don't have a problem with people demonstrating in relation to their personal rights but the truth will be that the only way is vaccinating the majority of the population to get herd immunity."
One of the key issues for protesters at last weekend's anti-vaccination rally was that claims from politicians that the vaccine wasn't mandatory were hollow because in the past incentives made opting out of vaccination challenging.
Incentives like No Jab, No Pay, which hold back some government payments from parents who do not vaccinate their children was often singled out for criticism.
Mr Singh was confident the Government would look at some form of incentives.
"The crux of the matter is we have a public health system paid for by the taxpayer and we need to protect the integrity of that health system by making sure it is not overwhelmed by COVID cases," he said.
"It's the reason we have had to have these lockdowns and the reason we have had this quarantine system, across the world we have seen health systems be overwhelmed by COVID and that is not something we want.
"This vaccine will be the safest way to ensure people will be protected from COVID-19."