The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Amaali Lokuge, a doctor at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
As the world records more than two and a half million deaths from the coronavirus and the United States celebrates over 50 million administered vaccines, here at the Royal Melbourne Hospital emergency department, as frontline workers, we scheduled ourselves for our first immunization this week. Australia has not recorded a coronavirus death for months now, and the little outbreaks we have peter out within days because of aggressive lockdowns and a compliant public. Given the low prevalence of disease, Australians have the luxury of choosing not to be vaccinated or to delay the vaccine until we are ready.
Until last week, I wasn’t sure I would get the vaccine. Some media reports highlight that mRNA vaccines have never been approved for use in humans outside clinical trials, making it seem like a new technology that has not been tested before. The vaccines were developed at such speed, I couldn’t be sure that major side effects hadn’t been overlooked. I worried about autoimmunity caused by expressing the coronavirus spike proteins on my own cells.
Skepticism runs deep in Australia, and anti-vaccine protests have popped up in many of our cities. Outside this vocal minority — which seems to oppose immunization based on theoretical and ideological rather than scientific concerns — it is difficult to gauge the popular mood. I get the sense that Australians feel obligated to be vaccinated, but privately many of us have reservations.
Within the medical community, the misinformation that pervades the anti-vaccination movement makes it difficult to voice genuine concerns. Doing so attracts gentle ridicule from my colleagues — to them, I sound as though I have let go of my medical education.
we asked you about the scandal surrounding sexual assault allegations in Parliament and your own experiences with sex education in Australia. Here are some reader responses:
Morrison could not condemn until he spoke to his wife? What sort of ignorant person is he that he cannot recognize that rape is unacceptable?
Dutton with his “he said, she said” comment appalled me. In addition, neither have made any comment on the information that the incident was reported to the AFP. I find the entire story, and the subsequent information about other assaults, really distressing.
— W. McQuarrie
My high school and primary school sex education was totally lacking. It felt like fear mongering, focusing almost solely on STI contraction, and was rooted in Catholic guilt, promoting abstinence as the only real form of safe sex. When I went to university it was no better. I went to a residential college that used to talk a lot about consent, but without any nuance or any real effort to engage a speaker that could relate to young people. And, when issues of consent were actually tested at my college, the administration failed all of us time and time again.
— Zoe Stinson
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