20 October 2021

Would requiring proof of vaccination make Canberrans more confident as COVID-19 restrictions ease?

| Zoya Patel
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Check in CBR sign

Will showing a vaccine passport become mandatory – or a habit – like using the Check In CBR QR code? Photo: Region Media.

It’s been less than a week since lockdown officially ended and already I feel like I can breathe easier.

Even though, practically speaking, not much has changed in terms of day-to-day life for many of us, who continue to work from home and socially distance, seeing light on the horizon definitely has a positive impact on our mental health.

However, even as some of us are chomping at the bit to get back into the world, many feel anxious at the thought of mingling with strangers when they can’t know for sure who is and isn’t vaccinated.

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I’ve been surprised by how many of my friends and family are genuinely too nervous about potentially contracting COVID to feel confident going to the shops, meeting friends, or heading into busier public spaces, even now they’re allowed to. It might seem like an overreaction to some, but COVID still poses a significant risk, and it understandably causes some hesitation across the community.

For those who were vaccinated early in the year, they worry that their level of immunity may be reduced as time wears on without a booster shot. For others, the fear remains that even with our high vaccination rates, the virus is present enough to act as a deterrent.

It’s time we asked whether we should bite the bullet and introduce proof of vaccination requirements for hospitality and retail venues that attract large numbers of people.

To date, the Chief Minister has shied away from this move, noting that we have such a high rate of vaccination in Canberra it might seem unnecessary – but I would argue that the value in proof of vaccination requirements is not only practical but symbolic. It’s about helping people feel safe and reinforcing the importance of being vaccinated to those who remain hesitant.

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Of course, there are those in the community who can’t be vaccinated for any number of valid health reasons, so a system would need to be developed to account for them – but it would also be to their benefit, particularly if they have lower immunity, to know that the high traffic places they need to go are reserved for those who are vaccinated or those who have a valid health reason for not being vaccinated.

Coming out of COVID is challenging for everyone. It’s hard to transition back to working away from home or heading back to school. Kids have to adjust back to routines they haven’t encountered in months, and businesses are trying to navigate the gradual easing of restrictions to get back in the black.

I’ve heard from friends and family how anxious they feel about just having ordinary social interactions and how odd it feels to be around groups of people again. Even a small period of time in crisis mode can profoundly impact our mental health, and adding to that, the fear of the virus itself means that things may never feel entirely ‘normal’ again.

If showing proof of vaccination can help us get back to the vibrant Canberra we love, I’m all for it.

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HiddenDragon8:06 pm 21 Oct 21

“However, even as some of us are chomping at the bit to get back into the world, many feel anxious at the thought of mingling with strangers when they can’t know for sure who is and isn’t vaccinated.”

If only it was so simple. Aside from the fact that no vaccine is 100% effective in stopping transmission, and that vaccine efficacy wanes (do we exclude people who don’t get a booster shot within a prescribed period?), there’s the added complication that we will soon have people entering the country who have received vaccines which are not approved for use in Australia, and that includes vaccines such as Sinovac, which has shown poor efficacy in Indonesia –

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/indonesian-health-workers-die-despite-being-vaccinated/13431510

Springsteen’s concert organizers got away with vaccine discrimination –

https://metro.co.uk/2021/06/18/bruce-springsteen-fans-with-astrazeneca-vaccine-barred-from-shows-14794691/

but it’s difficult to imagine any Canberra business surviving the social media Armageddon if it tried something similar.

Interestingly, in the TGA advice on “recognition” of vaccines not in use in Australia, there’s the suggestion that “public health officials may wish to consider whether a post-arrival booster dose of another vaccine should be considered” – a suggestion which thus far seems to have been ignored in the desperate rush to get the international borders open again –

https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-vaccines-not-registered-australia-current-international-use-tga-advice-recognition

Canberrans who are anxious about the coming weeks and months might be better to act cautiously, rather than being given a false sense of security by a system of internal passports which would have many holes in it – as other jurisdictions will soon discover.

The last two years have made it painfully obvious how people could turn in their Jewish neighbours in Nazi Germany or their less ideological pure neighbours in the Soviet Union or how the Red Guard were able to cause so much pain.

Or how wildly inappropriate and ridiculous comparisons are used daily……

What has happened here is not as extreme as those examples, but has exposed a latent desire to dob in neighbours, give up cherished freedoms and docilely follow as well as justify government edicts, no matter how intrusive and onerous. Note also the negligent silence and absence of those officials supposedly responsible for protecting our basic rights – the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission. This experience shows there are people in all societies, including ours, who are willing to excuse abuses, as well as participate in their execution. Psychology experiments also show how ordinary people will do extraordinaryly cruel things when told to. Civilisation is fragile.

Acton,
No it’s nothing remotely like that.

And I say that as someone whose default position is that we should always be biased towards more rather than less individual freedoms.

What has happened is a once in a century pandemic that requires societal level controls to mitigate the health disaster that would have occurred here.

We only need to look to the countries who didn’t act as we have to see how their “freedoms” have been served up with huge death and disease counts.

Now, you can argue at the margins about whether restrictions were too harsh and they probably were.

But your point only holds if the government does not begin to lower restrictions now that the health risks are also lower. If they don’t, I’m fully supportive of railing against ongoing restrictions that aren’t even remotely necessary.

No point now, our Vax rates are too high to make it worth the effort.

patrons should be weighed before being allowed into a venue and limited to a health food menu for their own health.

Recordings of patrons eating must be made so they can be reviewed later to ensure they got a healthy meal, that can be reviewed by undisclosed government officials.

Even though I don’t agree with the proposal, your example it not close to being a good comparison.

You eating yourself to death isn’t a communicable disease.

You may be onto something here. There is support for the view that the obesity epidemic means faties have contributed to the covid pandemic:
“Our findings from this large population-based cohort emphasise that excess weight is associated with substantially increased risks of severe COVID-19 outcomes, and one of the most important modifiable risk factors identified to date. ” https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(21)00089-9/fulltext

I am vaccinated, but object to having to prove it. It is intrusive, divisive and sets a highly undesirable precedent for anyone to demand to know someone’s vaccination status before they interact with them. We didn’t require this in the past with flu and must not start now.

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