For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
As Victoria takes its baby steps towards fully reopening thanks to an encouragingly high rate of vaccination, an intriguing question has emerged: what to do about the as-yet unjabbed?
Until now, the vaccine campaign has relied largely on persuading Victorians to participate so we can reach particular percentage targets, end lockdown and move on to release the various “freedoms”. That has largely succeeded. With the vast majority now on board, the vaccine rate has accelerated, more restrictions are to be lifted on Friday and we will be fully open – albeit with some ongoing health measures – by the end of next month.
The question now is how to persuade the shrinking but still significant number of holdouts to get with the program. Now that the common goal – reopening – is within reach, what else might motivate them?
The question, now, is how to persuade the shrinking but still significant number of holdouts to get with the program.Credit:Eddie Jim
The state government is taking a hard line, which is in keeping with its approach through the pandemic. On Sunday Premier Daniel Andrews revealed that when Victoria reopens, life for the unvaccinated will remain extremely limited. They will be able to visit friends and shop for essentials but pretty much everything else they might want to do will require a vaccination certificate and will therefore be off-limits.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not getting in,” Mr Andrews declared. “Whether it’s a bookshop, a shoe shop, a pub, cafe, a restaurant, the MCG, the list goes on and on. You will not be able to participate like a fully vaccinated person because you’re not a fully vaccinated person.”
The Age has strongly urged all eligible Victorians to get vaccinated, and accepts there will be a small number that cannot for medical reasons. Moreover, we support mandatory vaccination for some classes of workers, particularly those in public-facing roles or those who care for the vulnerable. In those instances, the risk to others outweighs personal liberty to refuse vaccination. And it is dismaying that false information about the safety of vaccines has been able to spread online when it is the unvaccinated who are most at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. It is the unvaccinated, too, who pose the greatest risks to the most vulnerable among us.
Even so, the government needs to better explain a policy that seeks to exclude the unvaccinated from public life almost entirely, which has been imposed with little or no discussion, and which runs risks of its own.
As we reported on Monday, some experts have questioned whether the policy is unnecessarily punitive, particularly as it includes some children: the vaccination requirements will apply to those aged 16 and over, and be expanded to include children aged 12 and over once the 90 per cent milestone is reached around November 24.
The head of the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, Nancy Baxter, said these rules would be among the strictest in the world. So, are they entirely justified by health advice? Will the unvaccinated really pose such a risk to public health they can’t go into a shoe shop? The answer may be “yes”, but if so, the state government needs to release its advice and the modelling behind it.
There are also concerns about the timeline. Mr Andrews has suggested the policy will remain in place until the end of next year, in contrast to NSW. That state is also opening up in stages and will no longer require vaccine certificates from December 1. If there is a public health reason for the discrepancy, we are yet to see it. Perhaps the government does not wish to give a date for the unvaccinated to rejoin “normal” life so as to encourage them to get the jab. Or perhaps the Premier means what he says – for all of next year, the unvaccinated will not be able to go to worksites, shop, or visit a restaurant.
Many Victorians may agree with the government’s approach, but it is worth asking whether it is the best way to encourage the vaccine-hesitant, or whether it could fuel a sense of alienation and segregation. Must we mop up every last conspiracy theorist or is there a level of vaccine coverage at which it is safe enough to ignore them?
It might well prove the final piece in the puzzle, along with pressure from workplaces, social connections and travel requirements, that encourages the remaining holdouts to roll up their sleeves and put all this behind them. We can only hope.
Fascinating answers to perplexing questions delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up to get our new Explainer newsletter here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article