About a third of Australians currently say that are either unsure they will get vaccinated for COVID19 or are firm that they won’t.
It is impossible to overstate how important it is that this dire situation is turned around fast and large proportion get fully vaccinated. The proportion of people needing to be vaccinated to see herd immunity established is not known. For measles it is 95% and for polio 80%. COVID19 is unlikely to be somehow any less than those figures. So we have a mountain to climb.
Low vaccination rates will greatly increase the probability of further outbreaks and keep the door locked on opening our borders, with all the devastation that will flow to all the industries that depend on travel and tourism and much more again.
One’s vaccinated status does not declare itself to others in the way that other health related behaviours can do. We see people wearing sun-smart hats and clothing. Smoking near others has become hugely unacceptable so we seldom experience it and don’t see it much. Many of us take reusable shopping bags with us when we shop. Coffee keepcup use is spreading. Jogging, walking and cycling are very public activities which can have contagious, normative effects on others.
So how can we spread the word that soon millions of us will be vaccinated for COVID19, in the hope that the same normative contagion might start turbo-charging in Australia and impact on the hesitant and the anti-social?
Many people wear lapel pins & ribbons for a variety of causes. Others put stickers on rear car windows. We do this to share ‘tribal’ values among our peers who recognize they are next to someone who acres about the same issues they do. We also hope our mobile mini billboards will be noticed by lots of others, start a few conversations and hopefully accelerate change.
On Cancer Daffodil Day, who hasn’t felt a little awkward when most people in the office are wearing a supportive pin but you’ve forgotten to put your hand in your pocket?
So why not get national momentum up on wearing a pin, badge or special ribbon that says simply “I’ve been vaccinated for COVID19”?
When I had my first shot this week (Astra Zenica) I tweeted about it and just now I see it’s had nearly 11,000 Twitter impressions. There is a COVID vax selfie thing happening too. Health Minister Greg Hunt is urging people to share them on social media.
But a pin or ribbon you wear everywhere for the rest of this year could become highly contagious. Those without them would (and should!) feel conspicuous by not wearing one in the same way that the minority of people who refused to wear masks did. Questions would be asked and conversations would invariably be started –some heated — as happened to me early in the pandemic when I wore a mask into a cake shop and got a spray from a maskless customer.
When prominent mask refusniks made their views public, many were shamed. Many of those who are quietly refusing to get vaccinated or freeriding on those of us who have got it done would probably also feel the heat.
The government has the address of every person who has already had a COVID shot. We could all be sent a few badges to wear and every authorized vaccination provider given as many badges as they are sent vaccine doses into the future. The government also has most of our addresses because they from time to time send us bin-worthy fridge magnets, as they did in 2003. Why not do this for something useful?
If you work in some health care settings, mandatory vaccination has long been the case for a variety of diseases. No one questions this. We all understand completely that we do not want to catch these diseases from someone who is looking after us. And nor do we want to transmit any infectious diseases we might have to those who care for us. That ethical reciprocity is a no-brainer which is not debated beyond fruitcake circles.
I’m old enough to remember having to carry the official yellow vaccination status card when traveling overseas. When I went overland by public transport from London to Calcutta in 1974, I had to be vaccinated for smallpox, cholera, typhoid and even bubonic plague. If you didn’t have the card they wouldn’t let you cross a border. Those objecting to vaccination just couldn’t travel. That knowledge was part of their decision-making.
Thanks to the vaccine, smallpox was eliminated in late 1975 when a 3 year old Bangladeshi girl was the last person to catch the disease in the wild. We are a long, long way from that with COVID19, with many knowledgeable people saying it will likely never be eliminated.
But as we have done with so many of the other vaccine preventable diseases, widespread uptake of vaccines has made some of these like measles and polio rare. We must do all we can to raise COVID vaccination rates. Making vaccine uptake something to be proud of, and refusal something that has consequences is unavoidable.
And please put this emoji 💉on all your social media handles.