Essential we limit the anti-science rhetoric

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VACCINE HESITANCY

Essential we limit the anti-science rhetoric

Dr Brendan Murphy is correct when he suggests that COVID-19 media coverage is at least partially responsible for vaccination reticence. On Monday night on The Drum (ABC TV), the National Party guest (and one other) stated that they will not be vaccinated because there’s no urgency in Australia. A third panellist pointed out that it is crucial that people are vaccinated before an inevitable outbreak occurs, especially given Melbourne’s latest community-positive tests.

Talk back anchors such as Virginia Trioli correctly urge all listeners to “get the jab” but then give air time to anti-vaxxers, blood-clot worriers and indecisive nervous nellies. This must increase vaccine hesitancy among viewers/listeners who otherwise might have made the right decision – to roll up their sleeves.

Report the risks, but in the face of overwhelming evidence that we have everything to gain if herd-immunity is achieved, it’s regrettable when so much sensationalist anti-science rhetoric pervades the airwaves. There’s little difference between this and, in a discussion about the solar system, providing equal time to members of The Flat Earth Society, except that how we deal with COVID-19 is a life and death struggle.
Murray Hall, Dunolly

We need the media to get the right message across
It’s a bit rich for Dr Brendan Murphy, who has been a much respected voice during the COVID-19 pandemic, to suggest that “the media and their sensationalist reporting” are responsible for the hesitancy in the take-up of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sadly he is painting all media with the same brush and making the media a scapegoat for the failings of his own department and those of the federal government in cutting through the noise with an effective, consistent and appropriate promotion of the benefits of the vaccine. A couple of sporting heroes, comedians and respected older identities spruiking about the benefits of the vaccines might help. For Dr Murphy to blame the media only serves to bite the hand that feeds him. He needs the media to get the right message out there.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris

Government’s credibility issues affecting uptake
Last Friday, while at work I received an all-staff email advising me that Bendigo Hospital had an excess of the Pfizer vaccine so all vaccines would be Pfizer until 4.30pm. The moment work finished I went straight there. The waiting room was pretty full and as I waited more people poured in. All, like me, were over 50 and wary of AstraZeneca but keen to get Pfizer.

There is no vaccine hesitancy, only AstraZeneca hesitancy. The government may spruik AstraZeneca all it likes but the government brand is on the nose. After all this is a government that was dragged kicking and screaming to the idea of lockdowns and restrictions by the states and constantly argued against them. A government that has consistently demonstrated its preference for economic growth over health and well-being. A government that spent a fortune on a vaccine people don’t want but whose ideological framework (profit before everything) won’t allow it to be dumped or given away. No wonder people don’t believe the government when it says AstraZeneca is safe.
Rohan Wightman, McKenzie Hill

What’s the plan for those not yet eligible?
I’m 48 years old and work as a substitute teacher. I’ve had two colds in three months and feel like a sitting duck, waiting for the inevitable community COVID-19 transmission to hit us again. I am getting increasingly frustrated listening to the endless discussion about how we can encourage eligible groups to get vaccinated when there is no reliable timeline given to me about my eligibility. I would have the AstraZeneca vaccine in a heartbeat, and am fully informed about the risks. When will the relevant governments acknowledge people like me who desperately wish to be vaccinated? How come NSW has a process for people in their 40s to receive leftover vaccines and we don’t in Victoria? It simply isn’t good enough.
Jo Snadden, Ashburton

THE FORUM

Destruction criminal
Australia has recently been ranked as among the worst in the world for biodiversity loss. If scientists say that climate emergency poses the greatest threat to life on Earth through loss of ecosystems and rising temperatures, it would seem reckless to be destroying the carbon sink and diversity of wildlife that abounds in the nation’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest. Incredibly the federal government has given the go ahead to majority Chinese-owned mining company MMG to proceed with clear felling in the Tarkine in Tasmania to build a tailings dam for toxic waste. As a concerned citizen I joined others at the blockade to attempt to halt this project. I met ordinary people who have jobs, families, pay their taxes and pull their weight in society, from young medical students to grandmothers such as myself – who are appalled at the unconscionable state-backed destruction of the Tarkine. Last week riot police busted the blockade and made arrests to allow the mining company access. Who are the criminals? Us, if we don’t act.
Julia Begg, Castlemaine

Program shame
Should we not be ashamed, living in a wealthy developed country such as Australia, as we enjoy our tax cuts, that the Indi Kindi program which provides vital early learning to some of the most remote and disadvantaged Aboriginal communities needs to be funded by UNICEF in order to expand its services (“Tailored programs making a difference”, The Age, 25/5).

What is wrong with us that we cannot find it in our hearts and our pockets to support such important initiatives via our federal government?
Josephine Ben-Tovim, Carlton

National disgrace
Judging by comments from Sustainable Timber Tasmania regarding the future of the swift parrot (“Swift action needed to save parrot in peril”, The Age, 25/5) this critically endangered species is as good as gone. Statements such as “the body recognises some swift parrot habitat coincides with areas where logging is permitted” and the organisation’s “future wood production plan focuses on areas unlikely to contain significant swift parrot habitat” indicate how little interest there is in saving this bird from extinction. The lack of concern for the number of threatened and endangered species in this country from all levels of government is a national disgrace.
Colin Smith, Mount Waverley

Leaders needed
The notion that the role of government is not to change the opinions of the electorate (Ian Bennett, Letters, 25/4) is to reduce political leadership to the act of holding one’s finger in the air to discern which way the wind is blowing – an attitude which has fed policies on refugees and climate change – for example – for too long. Leadership requires persuasion, discerning what is best for the nation and then prosecuting the case, testing it against counter arguments. The lack of courage in governments (and oppositions) in taking initially unpopular decisions has impoverished our nation in too many ways for too long. How we long for leaders who will actually lead us where we need to go.
Gary Heard, Jan Juc

Simple fix
Two simple solutions for the mouse plague: stop poisoning the apex and mesopredators such as dingoes and foxes who will keep problematic animals in balance.

Use immunocontraception for rats and mice before they get into plague proportions so they are unable to breed up.
Ruth Weston, Leopold

Points plan
The closeness of AFL matches should be reflected in the distribution of the premiership points. For example, if a match is won by less than one goal, the winning team could record 3 premiership points and the losing team 1.
Jane Washington, Frankston South

Funding applauded
Allan Fels’ opinion piece (“Mental healthcare levy the right move to fix a broken system”, The Age, 25/5) is a sensible response to those resisting a 0.5 to 1 per cent payroll tax rise for big business. Surely these corporations know how to cover such an expense.

My experience of family members’ and friends’ issues with anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and post-natal depression is all too real. One has recovered well due to ongoing therapy and a wonderful network of rehabilitation workers, and one is still suffering deep depression, despite months of receiving private treatment. Who knows how others get on without much treatment due to lack of public funding?

I applaud the Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, for this welcome injection of funding into mental health treatment.
Name withheld

Lax check-ins
We are just back from two weeks travelling in regional NSW and venues were rigorous about QR check-ins. You could not go anywhere without checking in. Since coming back to Melbourne, we have noticed many venues do not even have a QR code visible.

No wonder NSW’s contact tracing is so much better. As the latest restrictions show, COVID-19 is not over. We need to step up the check-in process in Victoria.
Margaret Barca, Richmond

Battery future
The government should invest taxpayer money in building battery manufacturing facilities using the lithium mined in Australia. Batteries are the future, not fossil fuel power stations.
Gretel Lamont, Aireys Inlet

Green potential
Like Jane Miller (Letters, 24/5) I urge the Melbourne City Council to consider the potential for greening offered by the more than 40 hectares of open space at the Melbourne General Cemetery. For many years it has been my solace to step out in the cemetery beneath a big sky, with one view to city and another to the Dandenong Ranges. But how things have changed over the years. Now that maintenance work has been contracted out, dead trees are not replaced, habitat is denuded, small birds have disappeared, tracts of land look like moonscapes, and pathways have become treacherous.

Could the Melbourne City Council team up with the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust and other environmental groups to plan the greening of this former haven in the heart of our city?
Prue Gill, North Carlton

Left-wing myth
Christopher Hitchens once wrote: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Katy Barnett would do well to remember this pithy aphorism. Her piece “Why the government is unwilling to support universities” (Comment, The Age online, 20/5) rightly bemoans the financial hardship facing Australian universities. She correctly blames this hardship on the federal government’s funding cuts. But Barnett asserts, without any evidence, that the Coalition’s antipathy towards universities is the fault of intolerant left-wing academics, whose alleged influence is so great they somehow manage to suppress not only critical thinking, but the university budget as well.

The idea that universities are filled with censorious left-wing academics is a right-wing myth. Society is being gaslit into believing that left-wing intolerance is destroying universities. In truth, it’s the culmination of 40 years of privatisation, casualisation, and quantitative idolisation that’s driving tertiary education into the ground.
Louis Devine, Newport

Consider others
I long for when we considered someone others than ourselves. The focus on protecting your family and mate seems to have gone with the “selfie” obsession. Having a vaccine is not about choosing the most popular one. You get the one that is available as it protects ourselves, but more importantly it adds to the protection of our community.

The federal government has done a dreadful job in organising and explaining things. This however is not an excuse for us all not to do the right thing and get a vaccine to help prevent more deaths when the next wave comes.
Raelee Hunter, Ocean Grove

Defending ducks
As shotguns blast above wetlands for the opening of duck season today, I write in defence of the pink-eared duck. The diminutive “pinkie” is one of seven native species in the firing line. Its name derives from a pink spot on the male’s head.

Out of 13,000 ducks counted in a Victorian helicopter survey last November, only 16 “pinkies” were found – a shocking, sad statistic.

Aerial surveys spanning one-third of Australia show this species well below average for the eighth consecutive year. South Australia has taken “pinkies” off the menu.

This incredible little waterbird has a uniquely shaped bill adapted for its diet. It’s found nowhere else in the world.
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Students lead way
It’s heartening to see young people being forthright and active in defence of our environment (“Students rally for climate action”, The Age, 22/5) – but it just makes it all the more dispiriting to witness the apparent sabotage of nature by those in positions of leadership.

Under our noses, the Ross Trust is seeking state government approval to blast an open-cut mine that would destroy 38 hectares of native bushland at Arthurs Seat.

The charity’s website says it wants to ensure “Victoria’s biodiversity is conserved, protected and valued by all as part of a healthy and resilient environment”.

That’s a “desired change”, apparently. I’m not sure how you square that with this unconscionable quarry proposal.

If only these trustees, and other “leaders” like them, had one ounce of the foresight, conscience and moral rectitude of those protesting students, we might have some hope for the future.
Ed Merrison, Shoreham

AND ANOTHER THING …

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Coronavirus
Had the jab. Feeling fab.
Wendy Batros, Templestowe

Get the jab, I’ve done it and I’m almost 90. Just bloody do it!
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

Let’s get the genius who came up with “So where the bloody hell are you?” to promote vaccination uptake. Is he still around?
Nicholas Tolhurst, Kew

Another outbreak in Melbourne’s north. Perhaps it’s time to put a ring of steel around the northern suburbs.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Do you want another long lockdown like last year? Well then, get vaccinated!
Katriona Fahey, Alphington

Could the incentives to vaccinate please be backdated.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South

I think I’d be asking for a refund if I contracted COVID-19 in a quarantine hotel.
Patsy Sanaghan, North Geelong

What a pity there’s not the same enthusiasm for vaccinations as there is for COVID-19 tests.
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills

Politics
The PM talks of technology not taxes. Pray tell, where will the $600m for the new gas generator come from? A magical money tree?
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Has it ever been considered that our problems with China might be mutual, and requiring joint resolution?
Chris Boon, Nunawading

Here’s a novel idea. Why not train our own people, in our own country, to fill the job vacancies?
Jean Kirkwood, Tweed Heads, NSW

Furthermore
Outdoor diners in Yarra City Council parklets will enjoy not only the al fresco ambience, but plenty of carbon monoxide!
Brian Kidd, Mount Waverley

Finally
When will the AFL make all players wear head protection gear? This would reduce head injuries and protect us from seeing distressing hairstyles.
John Bye, Elwood


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