Concerns the unvaccinated will be discouraged from getting a jab due to NSW's ‘freedom date’

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) speaks to the media during a COVID-19 press conference in Sydney Source: AAP

Despite some concerns that the state has included the unvaccinated in its roadmap to reopening, NSW Health denied it’s seen a rise in people abandoning appointments for the COVID-19 jab.

When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveiled the state’s roadmap to the easing of restrictions on Monday, she emphasised: “vaccination remains our ticket to freedom”.

She framed the announcement as a “disappointing day for those who aren’t vaccinated.”

“I think they assumed that once we hit 80 per cent double dose, that they would have certain freedoms,” she said.

“They’ll have to wait at least four to five weeks after we hit 80 per cent to be able to enjoy those things others enjoy.”

But some have criticised the state’s inclusion of the unvaccinated in its plans to reopen, fearing it could lead to a spike in the cancellation of vaccination appointments.

On Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews explained why his state plans to do things differently.

“I’m not going to be saying to people just wait five weeks and you’ll be able to have all the freedoms. That’s not a guarantee at all here,” said Mr Andrews.

Referring to the NSW’s roadmap to freedom, 2GB’s Ben Fordham said, “the anti-vaxxers have found an opening.”

“The government is about to give [businesses] a hand grenade. They’ve pulled the pin, tossed it into the pub and walked away,” he said.

Fordham claimed he’s been inundated with feedback from listeners who are concerned about their loved ones.

He read out a story from one listener who claimed their family friend had struggled with the vaccination issue due to “anti-vax conspiracies.”

The listener explained that for months they had tried to persuade their family friend to get vaccinated, but it was ultimately the fear of being cut off from ‘nightlife’ that finally convinced her to book the jab.

“Now, two weeks after getting the first dose she’s got regrets,” the listener’s letter to Fordham read.

“On her social media post yesterday she posted a link to the premier’s announcement with this caption: ‘so, unvaccinated people would only have to wait six weeks… this is why you should trust your gut and not the media’.”

Coronavirus vaccine rollout in Australia
Stock image of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Getty Images/Larisa Bozhikova

Some Twitter users also questioned the state’s announcement.

“I know plenty of vax hesitant people who were only planning to get vaxed bc of FOMO [fear of missing out]. Now they will just skip it & wait until December,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“It seems the unvaccinated are probably having a slight chuckle to themselves right now. Dec 1st and they basically free like the vaccinated,” another person said.

An expert view

Under NSW’s roadmap out of lockdown, the fully vaccinated will experience greater freedoms initially. 

However, from December 1st, restrictions will be lifted for unvaccinated people as the state expects to have 90 per cent of its population aged over 16 fully vaccinated.

Dr Holly Seale, associate professor at the University of New South Wales, said the state’s plan is a “logical approach” in that it’s staged. However, she said there were still many “gaps and uncertainties” in the roadmap.

“There are areas where we've been a little bit too hasty in terms of... the lifting the mask mandates in indoor areas by December 1,” Dr Seale said.

“I do have some concerns about whether we should delaying that for a bit longer. Today we’ve seen a record number of [daily] deaths in the state.”

Dr Seale said NSW’s decision to include the unvaccinated in its plans to reopen could mean there is less pressure for people to get vaccinated. 

“If you can navigate your way through October or November being an unvaccinated person then there are no sticks coming at you take to get you vaccinated,” she said.

“Potentially, if this period of restrictions on unvaccinated people were stretched longer, it may have nudged some people out of frustration that they want to get back to life.

“For others, who are particularly set in their views about the COVID vaccine, still, you don't want to miss out and [they could have used] this kind of restriction as a cover to go and get vaccinated.”

Dr Seale said there’s been an emphasis on the ‘fear of missing out’ but it’s also important to emphasise the benefits of the vaccine in significantly reducing the chance of death and hospitalisation with COVID-19.

“If you look at the proportion differences between those who are fully vaccinated ending up in hospital as opposed to unvaccinated populations, there is a huge difference,” she said.

“A study showed 97 percent of the COVID cases that were in ICU in the United States were unvaccinated.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

In a statement to The Feed, a spokesperson said NSW Health has not seen “any increasing trend of COVID-19 vaccination cancellations” in its state hubs. 

The Department of Health was unable to provide data on vaccination cancellations for GP clinics in the state due to multiple ways to book an appointment such as over the phone or online. 

“On occasion, people may need to cancel their vaccination appointment for a number of reasons. These appointments are generally quickly re-filled by other people seeking a booking, or in some clinics, by walk-ins,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.

“NSW Health has a large footprint of COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the state and is working with local communities to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”

In the 24 hours to 8pm last night, NSW Health administered 26,002 COVID-19 vaccines and 6,349,648 vaccines were administered by GPs and other providers to 11.59pm on Monday.

The latest numbers from the state show 86.2 per cent of the over-16 population has received the first dose of the vaccine and 61.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the onus is on individuals to get vaccinated. 

“I do find it a little ironic that people are jumping up and down saying, ‘Well I’m not going to get vaccinated because December 1 is three months away’,” he told Sydney’s 2GB radio station.

“The reality is, you get vaccinated primarily to save yourself, to save your family, to save your grandma and your grandpa and your mum and your dad or your kids.

“We trust you to go and get vaccinated the same way we have been.”

NSW residents can book an appointment using the COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder or by visiting this link.