The Third Jab
In the end, it was all about vaccines
Having been here for a few months, I feel as if we have crossed some threshold where our, or my, concerns and trepidations (I’ll only speak for myself) are now largely allayed, and health concerns have given way to social and political concerns.
So, while I still don’t feel entirely comfortable in some social situations (in crowds like those we encountered in Venice), I am more concerned about the way in which we are normalising various forms of surveillance.
The image above of the soldiers wandering through the streets is more to do with concerns about terrorism—you see them all over the city, though it is worth pointing out that these guys are near the Church where there was an attack last year—but it goes to the same point: in pursuit of public safety, where do you draw the line?
Any legislation enacted under emergency conditions needs to be subject to constant review—some sort of sunset clause needs to be built into all such legislation—so that we don’t just drift into a ‘new normal’ where soldiers at the shops, or even QR codes at restaurants, never go away.
But let me come at this from a different angle.
In the end, it was all about vaccines.
The Morrison Government’s intentional go-slow on the purchase and roll out of vaccines was a disaster and nearly every other problem that befell us can be traced to that failure.
They should be held accountable for this at the next election.
In the absence of high levels of vaccination, lockdowns were the best tool State governments had to manage the disease and thank heavens they used it. That the Delta variation eventually undermined its efficacy simply highlights what a tragedy the slow vax rollout was to start with.
And there is now another vaccination challenge facing us: the third jab.
This ABC article sets out the Israeli experience and I hope we learn from it (including here in France):
As the booster campaign ramped up, new Delta infections, hospitalisations and deaths began to dramatically tumble. More than a third of the Israeli population has now been triple-vaccinated.
Soon, a clear pattern began to emerge among severe cases of the disease and those dying as a result of it — they largely did not include people who had received three shots of the vaccine.
The other thing Australia needs to get sorted is the rapid antigen test, which certainly provided us with a way to participate when we first arrived in Nice, as well as the confidence that we were disease free (even now).
To that end, it is good to see that kits will be available at Woolies and Coles and other stores come November. About time.
So, vaccinations are the most important thing, and it is great to see Australia heading to levels above 90% (a figure, incidentally, that makes you realise how irresponsible so much of the reporting on “vaccine hesitancy” has been: the problem was always supply).
Still, the disease remains a threat, and vaccines alone are not enough. To quote the ABC article again:
Even if Israel's booster campaign was the most important factor in so quickly overcoming the country's summer Delta surge, it's unlikely any type of booster vaccine will be able to sustain that alone, said Ron Balicer, chief innovation officer of major Israeli health fund Clalit Health Services.
A balance of mask mandates, enforcement of the green pass system and widespread testing with a combination of PCR and rapid antigen tests have also played a part.
To be clear, I support the idea of a vax pass, or at least, that people need to produce a current negative test to participate socially, and I certainly support wearing masks, but I would still like to see much more vigorous conversation about when we might no longer need even these measures.
In the meantime, we are looking at getting a third jab, and I will let you know how we go. Stay safe, everyone.
As usual, some photos to finish. In Venice and Milan, we kept seeing weddings: at least, stray brides and grooms. Or maybe nuns.