The 'sad' problem with 'rewards' for fully vaccinated people

The one freedom that could be returned to NSW residents is not far away from being announced – but there is one small problem.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro told Sunrise on Wednesday the government is looking at “a number of options”.

It is widely speculated the freedom which will be given to fully vaccinated residents will be haircuts, but this is yet to be confirmed. It would only be accessible for people with two doses of vaccine.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said one freedom will be restored to the fully vaccinated. Source: AAP

UNSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is a World Health Organisation advisor, told Yahoo News Australia there is a “sad” problem with the plan that may see recently vaccinated residents denied access to the freedom for a few extra days.

“You’re only protected against the virus 14 days after receiving your second dose of vaccine,” Professor McLaws said.

“This allows the immune system to adapt. Sadly, this means only people in my age group will be able to participate."

This is true for both Astrazeneca and Pfizer doses, according to the Federal Government Department of Health.

"Individuals may not be fully protected until 7-14 days after their second dose of the Pfizer (Comirnaty) or AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)) vaccine," the advice reads.

"Because of this, you can still become ill prior to this time and infect others around you, so you should continue COVIDSafe practices."

Professor McLaws said less than a quarter of NSW residents will be able to take part in whatever restriction is lifted.

“Only 26 per cent are fully vaccinated and this just accounting for the adult population,” she said.

A breakdown of age groups, from the Federal Government’s Operation Covid Shield, shows just 32.95 per cent of NSW residents are fully vaccinated. People aged 16-19 have got just over 5 per cent with full vaccine coverage, while the 20-24 age group has 12.8 per cent. Those aged between 25-29 are 15.63 per cent vaccinated, and 30-34 -year-olds are at 17.81 per cent.

An electronic sign board showing ''Beach closed '' in early hours on Bondi Beach.
A beach closed sign at Bondi Beach. Source: Getty Images

It also needs to be considered that these are not necessarily all people who have been vaccinated fully for 14 days. The data was published on Wednesday and it means even if a restriction is lifted in days, a large chunk of vaccinated residents may have to keep waiting.

“The only people who will have been fully vaccinated are the middle-aged and older,” Professor McLaws said.

“Unless you’re a frontline worker it’s unlikely you will have had access to two doses by now.”

Professor McLaws said one of her biggest problems with the virus has been the inequality throughout the pandemic and lack of vaccine access for certain people.

There has been much criticism of the rollout and its speed.

A NSW Health worker administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a client at the Australian Sikh Association (ASA) pop up clinic in Sydney, Australia.
A NSW Health worker administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose at a pop up clinic. Source: Getty Images

But also of how difficult it has proven for people of certain age groups to get access to vaccines and mixed messaging over whether Astrazeneca is safe for people under the age of 40. There has also been suggestions children as young as 12 should be the focus of vaccinations too and fears younger age groups are being left behind.

Professor McLaws suggested LGAs introduce mini vaccination hubs.

“That would mean everyone under the age of 40 had access to a vaccine,” she said.

“Australians pride themselves on being highly equitable. That equality has to be lived through.”

Getting back to the barber

Professor Jaya AR Dantas from Curtin University’s School of Population Health told Yahoo News Australia re-opening hairdressers and barbers could work as long as everyone is fully protected against Covid-19.

Professor Dantas said authorities will need to see what happens with cases. She added appointments would either need to be restricted to smaller venues or places with few people.

“If someone is having a short haircut then that is probably fine but for a longer amount of time such as someone is getting their hair coloured we would need to see what happens,” she said.

“One vaccination would also just cause confusion for people looking to book and lead to a higher risk of spreading. It would need to be only for people with two doses.”

A barber and discount store are shuttered in the Campsie suburb of Sydney, Australia.
A woman walks past a closed barber and discount store in Campsie during lockdown. Source: Getty Images

Mr Barilaro told Sky News there are “one or two things” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had in mind “to support the public to give them hope through September to make them feel better and aim for that 70 per cent in October”.

Professor Dantas said there needed to be a national approach to how restrictions are dealt with in future and it “may not be possible” for WA, where she is based, to be free of the Delta variant.

Ms Berejiklian said she would make an announcement on the new freedom either on Thursday or Friday.

The premier hoped the state would reach six million jabs by Saturday, but that target was already hit on Monday.

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