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  • John McDonnell

Vaccine attitudes bordering on the ridiculous

It seems that everyone is now a weekend infectious diseases specialist. This attitude is egged on by the media. Every misplaced attitude on social media is picked up on mainstream media and used to lambast the government and health experts.

On the other hand, explanations by frontline workers are dismissed with the Mandy Rice Davies rubric, “Well they would say that wouldn’t they”.

An example of this misplaced outrage is the hue and cry that has arisen over the vaccination of residential disabled. Over the weekend, the ABC revealed that only 4 per cent of residential disabled had been vaccinated. The health minister was asked about this and offered the explanation that aged care residents had been given priority over residential disabled.

This caused outrage among disability advocates who demanded to know why they had not been given equal priority with aged care residents. The royal commission into abuse of the disabled held a special hearing into the matter and Senator Jordan Steele-John said the failure to vaccinate the disabled was disgraceful. He was supported by Samantha Edmonds, a disability advocate who appeared a number of times on the ABC.

On Tuesday, Fran Kelly of ABC Radio National breakfast, interviewed Glenn Keys of Aspen Medical, which is responsible for the vaccination of the aged and the residential disabled. Mr Keys was an interesting interviewee because he is the carer for two disabled people. He said the government had made the decision to vaccinate the elderly before the disabled because they were more vulnerable. He said he supported the decision. Mr Keys pointed out 658 aged care residents had died compared with 9 disabled people overall. He further pointed out that around the world the great majority of people who died were over 50. The people in residential disabled accommodation were overwhelmingly under 40.

When Fran Kelly asked him why the aged and the disabled could not be vaccinated simultaneously, Mr Keys said this would slow the roll-out because Aspen did not have enough trained team to do both. He said vaccination of the disabled would begin next week starting with the Northern Territory and the ACT with SA and WA being done the following week.

This didn’t stop the ABC from continuing with the campaign of denigration of the government. Samantha Edmonds popped up on the Drum on Tuesday and Radio National on Wednesday to claim that the disabled were forgotten people.

On Monday, the CEO of Virgin Jane Hrdlicka, called for a plan to open up Australia once a sufficient number of people have been vaccinated. She said that we would have to learn to live with Covid19 once borders were opened and it became endemic. She said some people might die of Covid but it would be many fewer than die each year from the Flu.

Senator Steele-John immediately demanded to know how many people would die, arguing that they would all be disabled because the disabled are the most vulnerable in the community.

When asked about this on Patricia Karvelas' ABC afternoon briefing, infectious diseases expert Nick Coatsworth said that it was highly unlikely that anyone would die of Covid 19 if they have been vaccinated, particularly if they have been vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine.

This didn’t stop the ABC repeating the claim that disabled people would die if borders were opened. At no stage did any ABC journalist challenge the assertions of disability advocates who, whether intended or not, were spreading anxiety among their fellow disabled.


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