'All it does is increase my anxiety': Young people in NSW say graphic new coronavirus ad is an 'insult'

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says a new TV ad is intended to be "graphic" to motivate people to get vaccinated, but critics say young Sydneysiders cannot act on the message as the vaccine is not yet widely available to those under the age of 40.

A new ad aims to motivate young people to get vaccinated.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says a new TV ad is intended to be "graphic" to motivate people to stay home and get vaccinated. Source: Supplied

People have voiced their anger over a "graphic" COVID-19 advertisement airing on Sydney television screens that seems to encourage young people to get vaccinated when many are still unable to.

In the short federal government-funded TV ad, a young woman on a ventilator struggles to breathe in a hospital bed as her heart monitor beeps.

She slowly makes eye contact with the camera and gasps for air as a message reads: "COVID-19 can affect anyone. Stay home. Get tested. Book your vaccination."

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the Australian government had specifically commissioned the ad because of the intensifying outbreak in NSW.

"We are only doing this because of the situation in Sydney and it will be running in Sydney," he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday. 

"It is quite graphic and it is meant to be graphic - it is meant to really push that message home."

But critics claim the ad, aimed to highlight the seriousness of the disease, is an "insult" given many under 40 don't have access to their recommended vaccine.

In NSW, the Pfizer jab is largely only available to those aged between 40 and 59.

Many took to Twitter to air their frustration and anger.

"This is so messed up. Why would you use a young person in your scary ad warning them they could get seriously ill with COVID when young people currently can’t get vaccinated because your own government has monumentally botched the vaccine rollout? What an absolute shambles," said Jill Stark.

Journalist Kate Allman said young people are both copping the brunt of lockdowns while being at the bottom of the vaccine queue. 

"Young people are the ones copping the brunt of lockdowns - insecure, casualised work, longterm wage stagnation, weddings and life events being put on hold - and they're at the bottom of the vaccine queue," she wrote on Twitter. 

"On top of it all they're supposed to feel guilt and fear! Unbelievable."

Another rebuked the government for increasing anxiety among young people who may have to wait months for a vaccination.

"This is clearly targeted at young people when the ONLY option for a vaccination for those under 40 is the one we’ve been advised against having?," another person, "f", tweeted.

"I want to get vaccinated, I want to be part of the solution but I f***ing can’t! And all this ad does is increase my anxiety."

Another woman claimed the ad was simply an "insult" to young people.

Ad only to run in Sydney

A 90-year-old southwest Sydney woman became the first death of the outbreak on Saturday, just hours after being diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Of the 52 NSW patients in hospital, 15 are in intensive care and seven of them are under the age of 55.

"The Delta variant is much more infectious and is impacting younger cohorts more than previous variants," a federal government spokesman said.

"The clip encourages people in NSW to book their vaccination, but also to highlight the need to stay home and get tested."

Vaccine task force leader Lieutenant General John Frewen said it would only run in Sydney, while the "Arm Yourself" campaign would be aired nationwide.

UNSW Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell said the ad should be pulled off air.

"This ad should be immediately taken off air," he said in a statement on Twitter. "Today in Sydney a young girl with Covid - about the same age as the actor in the ad - is on a ventilator fighting for her life. This insensitive ad can only distress her family and friends. It is misconceived in every way."

Health workers who work with patients in ICU said the images shown are inaccurate and misleading. 

ICU specialist Tom Solano said it was important that people had a good understanding of how COVID-19 patients would be treated in ICU.

"We’d never deliberately let you suffer like that," he said in a post on Twitter. "We’d try to get increased support before it got that bad."

Another Twitter user, Mags, who identified herself as a retired palliative care specialist, said "no intensive care specialist, medic or health worker would allow that level of suffering".

Arm Yourself campaign will be adapted in coming months

The less-confronting "Arm Yourself" ad shows a series of bare arms with band-aids stuck on to signify they have had the jab.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it missed the mark.

"We were the best in the world in the campaign against AIDS, we've done drink-driving very well," he told ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.

"But after 18 months if this is the best they can do, they need to go back to the drawing board."

Lt Gen Frewen said the Arm Yourself campaign will be adapted and tailored in the coming months as more Pfizer and Moderna vaccines arrive from overseas.

"It is really October, November and December where we had the vast amounts of vaccine coming through," he said.

"So we do wish to build up through the year."

By then, he said Australians can expect something more akin to the celebrity and song and dance-driven vaccination advertising campaigns rolled out in New Zealand and Singapore.

Additional reporting: AAP

5 min read
Published 11 July 2021 at 9:15pm
Source: SBS News