A mother’s anger has boiled over on national television as ACT Senator Katy Gallagher slammed the Federal Government for its slow vaccine rollout after revealing her teenage daughter Evie has contracted COVID-19.
“When I saw the fear in her eyes, her red cheeks and fever, that shaped my decision to speak out,” she told Region Media.
“There is nothing to protect these kids because there wasn’t enough supply of vaccine and there wasn’t enough urgency.”
Senator Gallagher said that it would not have been her initial decision to go public, but as the rumour mill went into overdrive, she felt her family had little choice.
“Overwhelmingly, there have been lovely people just giving support,” she said of the response. “It is actually really comforting and appreciated. A lot of parents have been saying thank you for voicing the concerns we all have.
“There’s clearly an undercurrent of anxiety among parents who are worried about what’s happening to their kids. I’ve had a minority of people saying I shouldn’t use my kids for political purposes, but I don’t want to feel shamed or for Evie to be some pariah.”
While quite unwell, Senator Gallagher says that her daughter has been cheered by the messages of support and contact from friends and schoolmates.
“The point was not to feel sorry for me and my family personally. This is the reality of what’s happening in households right across Australia. We need more urgency and vaccine supply to get the job done.
“People are being left completely unprotected and I think my story has tapped into that parental concern about keeping your kids safe. I couldn’t feel like I’d done that for Evie.
“Something has really gone wrong when millions are in lockdown, your child is sick, and the best you can do is put on a mask and give them some Nurofen.”
Senator Gallagher said that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use on 12 to 15-year-olds on 23 July, but is currently only being used for children with serious underlying immune issues.
Earlier, she told the ABC that after such a good start at dealing with the pandemic, young people had been left vulnerable and that the government had let them and their parents down.
“People in government have got to take it seriously,” Senator Gallagher said.
“My little girl is lying in bed on her own with terrible symptoms, and I can’t do anything about it, and my son’s in the next room waiting to catch it.”
She urged people to get vaccinated if they could, but supply was an issue, even though there was a very willing population in the ACT.
“It’s still only 30 per cent that have been fully vaccinated and that level is not enough,” Senator Gallagher said.
“For me, it’s taken a personal turn and I’m living the real-life impact of that low vaccination rate. It’s not been enough to protect Evie, and Evie’s like thousand of other children.”
As the main carer, Senator Gallagher must wear PPE such as a face shield, mask and gloves, and use a lot of disinfectant. She cannot spend prolonged time with Evie and this is frightening when she needed reassurance and physical comforting.
“There’s plenty of parents around Australia that are in the same boat as I am, maybe not directly touched by COVID but anxious and worried about what this virus means for our young people,” Senator Gallagher said.
She feared the situation would get worse before it got better.
Earlier, she posted the news on social media, saying the household was in strict quarantine until ACT Health advised it didn’t need to isolate anymore.
The rest of her family, including herself, have all returned negative tests.
“I am lucky as I am fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, too many Australians have not had that opportunity,” she said.
“My focus right now is on my little girl and getting her through this – but these events bring a sharp personal focus to the consequences of our government’s failure to ensure a prompt, efficient national rollout of vaccines.”