'Why we need a no-jab lockout'
A seven-letter word that might give all of us our lives back will be the most uttered next week as Australia finally rolls out a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.
To some, vaccines - including for protection against COVID - are part of an evil conspiracy aimed at controlling a compliant public. For us "normal" people the vaccine gives hope that things will one day return to normal.
From Monday essential workers and our most at-risk aged care and disability care residents will be in line for the jab - an estimated 1.4 million Australians.
The Pfizer vaccine will be the first used followed by imported AstraZeneca and then the locally produced AstraZeneca.
This will be a logistical nightmare for the Federal Government and local medical authorities and expect a raft of horror stories of delays and confusion.
That's the easy bit though.
Australia is about to explode with an emotional debate about vaccine safety, their effectiveness, and arguments about vaccine passports and mandatory vaccine demands for certain jobs and lifestyle pursuits that we once took for granted.
As an example, this Thursday I was talking to a senior Melbourne criminal barrister who when asked if he was prepared to get the jab said he would wait a while to see what side-affects it might have on people.
He's not some staunch anti vaxxer like Pete Evans but surely my barrister friend will - until he's jabbed - be banned from entering any Victorian prisons to see clients.
Jails are said to be one destination most at risk of a COVID outbreak, but here's where the problem lies.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has made it clear even after a COVID jab while you are protected from falling sick yourself that doesn't mean you will not pick up COVID and pass it on to someone who hasn't been vaccinated.
It's the best argument for ALL of us of to line up for the needle.
Convincing a lot of Australians to do that will take a mighty advertising campaign and even so, numbers and polls as recent as this week reveal a healthy reluctance to comply.
I am of the view mandatory vaccination is the answer.
Many Australians don't agree, with one in four not wanting to be vaccinated according to a poll conducted by the Melbourne Institutes Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey.
If that's anywhere near an accurate reflection of the public mood we have a massive problem.
In the six months since last October, the number of Australians willing to be vaccinated is measured as declining from a 74.4 per cent yes to just 66.2 per cent.
The refusal rate has jumped from 12 per cent to 19.4 per cent, according to the same poll, and those saying they are hesitant about having the needle sits at 14.4 per cent.
Younger people are the most reluctant with people over 70 most willing.
Bizarrely the lead health authority the Australian Health Primary Committee has issued advice that vaccination for residential aged-care workers remains voluntary.
So, an aged care facility cleaner or nurse or carer will be able to continue to work vaccine-free with our most-at-risk elderly residents.
The United Workers Union backs members being able to refuse to be vaccinated but suggests they do. It seems we have learned nothing from the COVID aged care debacle that cost over 800 Victorian lives.
A proof of COVID vaccination certificate should be required for anyone working in aged care as it has been since May 2020 for influenza. Staff in aged care, visitors, health practitioners, volunteers and even tradies need to show they've had a flu jab.
If you need flu protection surely you need COVID protection.
Australia and Australians need to get serious about this. If we don't, we are simply playing into the hands of the crackpot anti-vaxxers.
Starting with airlines it should be a requirement when purchasing an airline ticket that you prove you have been vaccinated and this should be for both international and domestic travel.
I don't want to sit on a plane for an hour let alone sixteen hours - when the international borders open - next to someone too ignorant to protect themselves and me.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce to his credit has already issued a no-jab, no-fly edict internationally and he should do the same thing with Qantas and Jetstar domestically. That would force
Virgin and Rex to do the same.
I'd go further and the most obvious place to start is spectator sport.
The AFL is always keen to lead on social issues and they have healthy contracts with most of Australia's biggest venues including the MCG, Marvel Stadium, Adelaide Oval, the Gabba and Optus stadium in Perth.
A requirement to attend any AFL controlled game should include proof of a COVID jab. AFL clubs should also insist that financial members, if they intend to go to matches, have a COVID pass and I am sure all their players and staff will be compliant.
Things get a little trickier for hospitality venues but surely a COVID safe signage campaign indicating to diners, drinkers and nightclubbers that only vaccinated patrons and staff are inside the venue would be a bonus.
Venues can choose not to display the COVID-safe sign but it becomes your choice, just like attending a pub that doesn't have poker machines or serves only Vegan food.
The great vaccine debate is already an emotional minefield populated by a vocal group of fringe dwellers with 5G phone-tower theories and a nutty band of followers.
That's their choice, but COVID changed this argument and the rest of us need to feel safe as life slowly returns to normal.
Originally published as Why we need a no-jab lockout