29 September 2021
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It’s the vaccine, stupid!

Dr Ross Walker
12 July 2021

I am writing this article on Saturday, July 10 2021, mentioning the date purely because a week is a short time in the COVID-19 pandemic.

You'd have to be living under a rock not to be aware that a significant proportion of the New South Wales population is in a severe lockdown because of the recent outbreak of the Delta strain of the coronavirus.

Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour are all in lockdown with stay at home orders apart from the listed circumstances of buying food, exercise, attending medical appointments or different aspects of compassionate care for close friends and relatives. Plus, you can go to work, if this cannot be done from home.

As of the stats this morning, there were 50 new, community-acquired cases up to 8 pm last night with a significant number expected tomorrow. 37 of these cases were in the community (not being isolated), whilst 26 of the 37 were in the community for their entire infectious period.

47 people out of the 453 to date who are active cases from this Sydney outbreak, are in hospital. Of those, 16 are in intensive care which includes a teenager, one person in their 20s and one in their 30s. 19 out of 47 are under the age of 55 and 79% of the people in hospital are unvaccinated. The only people in hospital who are fully vaccinated are the five people from the Summit Care Nursing Home outbreak and they are purely in hospital as a precaution because of their advancing years. Four people in hospital have had their first dose of AstraZeneca and one person has had their first dose of Pfizer.

I have included below a graph comparing the prominent outbreaks.

Last year during the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak in Australia during late March we were seeing on average 350 cases per day but by the end of April this had dropped down to 20 cases per day, certainly because of lockdowns & expert contact tracing, along with Australians, on the whole, being compliant with all the usual measures. 

The second wave occurring in Victoria between May to June 2020, following the bungle at the Melbourne quarantine hotel, at its peak had 7000 active cases plunging Melbourne into a four-month lockdown. Melbourne had achieved zero cases by October 26, 2020.

Victoria’s second wave accounted for 75% of the total cases we have seen in this country since the outbreak began and 90% of the fatalities.

The reality is there have been no deaths from SARS-CoV2 since December 28, 2020 apart from one death from a returning traveller in Queensland on April 13, 2021.

This needs to be contrasted with the three deaths seen from the clotting syndrome related to the AstraZeneca vaccine in three women aged 48, 52 and 61. But, this needs to be put into perspective being a one in 2 million chance of dying from the vaccination as opposed to a 3% chance of dying from COVID.

This brings me to the major point of this article following a call I received during a weekly segment I do with John Stanley on Sydney radio 2GB. A gentleman rang from the lower Blue Mountains (where they have no active cases) stating that his wife is in a nursing home in the Penrith area, close to his home. Both he and his wife are fully vaccinated, as are the vast majority of the residents and staff at this particular nursing home, but he has been forbidden from visiting her because of the lockdown.

It is my opinion that the grief induced by this lack of contact has a much more deleterious effect on health than the potential risk of catching any strain of the coronavirus in people who are fully vaccinated. 

I stated in an article I wrote last week that there are two reasons to be vaccinated. The first is for our own personal protection as vaccination converts all forms of SARS-CoV-2 into a mild illness and reduces the risk for transmission.

The second reason is so society can return to some degree of normalcy which we have not seen since the outbreak of this pandemic.

Currently, around 33% of Australians have had their first jab whilst just under 11% are fully vaccinated. There are not too many people who would say our vaccination rollout has been a success and continues to be much too slow. I believe there are multiple reasons for this including bureaucratic incompetence, poor availability of supply at the front line and the negative perceptions regarding the safety of the vaccination.

But, when we examine the raw numbers of this outbreak of the Delta strain, it appears that only 10% of those infected are very ill as opposed to 20% with the initial Wuhan strain or the other variants such as the Oxford, South African and Brazilian strains.

Thus, we can ask the question why all areas of Sydney and their surrounds are in total lockdown as opposed to the localised lockdowns we saw last Christmas in the northern beaches. You will be given the (in my view, rather pathetic) argument that the northern beaches is a peninsula and it's easier to close this area down but none of us saw checkpoints out of these areas over the Christmas period and I feel, with adequate policing, the LGAs affected by this current outbreak could be effectively locked down whilst the other areas are allowed to go about their business, albeit somewhat restricted, socially distanced and all of us masked up.

When you consider that almost all of the outbreaks in Australia have been due to the incompetence of those in charge, we are the ones who are suffering both at an emotional and financial level. It is not the public servants or the politicians’ wages that are being affected by this pandemic.

The Ruby Princess debacle was the direct result of someone in the New South Wales health department allowing an infected ship full of people come ashore and infect the Australian community. Can someone from the New South Wales health department answer the very straightforward question – who in their right mind would say that it is okay for a limousine driver who is unvaccinated and not wearing a mask to pick up potentially infected travellers from overseas and drive them in an enclosed vehicle for a period of time?

Although I agree that a proportion of the Sydney population should be in lockdown at the moment, I believe the rest of us should be allowed to go about our business, albeit somewhat restricted. I do agree with the Prime Minister that if you are due for your second vaccination at some stage over the next month, go ahead and have it earlier. The extra benefits from waiting a few weeks are outweighed by the significant benefits of being fully vaccinated. I believe we should all have some form of electronic vaccine passport or a certificate for those who are not electronic friendly, allowing those persons greater freedoms within this country. The evidence is that they are at minimal risk both to themselves & others. Restrictions should be placed on those who choose to be unvaccinated without some very rare medical justification.

There is no doubt that those in charge in this country are doing their best but sometimes and, in regard to the overall management of vaccines & lockdowns, it is my opinion that their best is just not good enough.


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