Among the many inequalities being highlighted by covid, ageism is one discrimination form putting lives on the line.
In Australia, the federal government has been tardy in rolling out covid vaccines. This is mainly because of a seemingly economic and parochial decision to go for cheaper locally made vaccines, being a Queensland university developed one and AstraZenica (AZ). The former was abandoned when it showed false positives for HIV, and AZ began to manifest blood clots in a few recipients.
Along with other countries, Australia began to restrict AZ to over 50s, but when too many in the 50-59 age group started getting clots, AZ was restricted to over 60s, even though the risk of blood clots in the 60-69 range was only half that of 50-59s. Pfizer is now the preferred vaccine for under 60s and over 60s can only have AZ. The unfairness of the arbitrary age 60 cutoff was not missed on those older and so there is a measure of reticence in that age group to get jabbed with AZ.
These are not anti-vaxxers, but people who could see that possible death was an unacceptable severity, despite assurances from medical experts and politicians that the risk was low. As any business manager knows, risk assessment is based on both likelihood and severity, and so a rare occurrence with deadly outcomes is perceived as higher risk than one with higher likelihood but low severity.
Unfortunately, much pressure is put on over 60s to toe the line and get jabbed despite the risks of AZ. This is like expecting over 60s to play Russian roulette with a revolver holding one AZ and five covid bullets and be happy about it. The alternative being chosen by many over 60 is to wait for an mRNA vaccine and basically self-isolate to minimise contact with others.
Unfortunately, these over 60s are not being left in peace by politicians because most want to achieve 70 or 80% vaccination rates so they can open up the economy more quickly, despite them being responsible for the poor vaccination rates to begin with. This has lead to ageist comments such as by Norman Swan, the resident medical expert at the government broadcaster, calling such vaccine reticence
boomer entitlement. This is especially egregious considering he is 68 himself.
Even, Andrew Barr, the Chief Minister for the ACT, who has normally favoured Canberrans' welfare over business profits, has dismissed concerns over AZ because only a few percent were resistant. This is all despite the government advisory body, ATAGI, recommending all have a choice of vaccine.
Fortunately, we are starting to see a sea-change, in that the WA, NT and SA governments are going to allow over 60s to have Pfizer, despite it not being federal policy. The WA Premier, McGowan had previously stated that the simplest way to bypass vaccine reticence was to just give all people Pfizer, rather than spend time and effort trying to persuade them to take the problematic AZ. Hopefully, the other states will follow suit.
For those hoping to achieve high vaccination rates as quickly as possible, the mRNA vaccines only require 2-3 weeks between doses for maximum protection, while AZ requires at least 8 weeks and preferably 12. The mRNA vaccines are therefore the best chance at severely reducing the spread of the virus rapidly.