Reason ‘no jab, no fly’ rule won’t work


Will you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Will you give it to your kids?

It’s a big call, isn’t it? A big, loaded question that will take time to work through.

And Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says will determine whether you fly his airline internationally or not. Joyce has come under fire today for saying he’ll make the vaccination mandatory for Qantas passengers going overseas, as a future condition of travel.

No jab, no fly – if you want to hop on the flying kangaroo, that is.

“For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,’’ he said on A Current Affair last night.

“Certainly, for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.”

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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at the Qantas said people won’t be able to fly Qantas internationally unless they’re vaccinated against COVID-19. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio BrancaleoneSource:News Corp Australia

Now, as a passionate pro-vaxxer myself, this ultimatum gave me a lot to think about. I have no hesitation in having the vaccine myself, but as a mother of three young children, I’m quite conflicted about the prospect of giving it to them straight away, when there is one available.

I’m not saying I won’t – but it certainly shows a lot of faith to commit to having something put into the bodies of our growing children – something that we simply don’t know what the effects will be in 10, 20 or 40 years – hell, even one year.

I vaccinate my kids every year, and I was always very strict about having their immunisations up to date – but we’ve never been faced with a vaccine that’s been rushed through for a virus we’d never heard of before 2020.

COVID-19 is so new. No one had even heard the word when it first shook the world to its very core, and boy did it change life as we know it as quickly as it came.

Millions have died. Millions have fallen ill. Life was locked down. Businesses closed. Toilet paper became a commodity. The world became the virtual set of one of those torturous thrillers where a killer virus wipes out humans from every inch of the globe. And it was terrifying.

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COVID-19 has turned the world as we knew it upside down. A vaccine feels like the only hope to get back to normal. Picture: Money SHARMA / AFP.Source:AFP

But here we are. Life is … coming back, at least in Australia. Numbers are dropping. Kids are back at school, parents are breathing communal sighs of relief and life is starting to feel more normal than it has in a long time, with headlines of vaccines being fast-tracked celebrated far and wide – because as we’ve been told for the last nine months – until there is a vaccine, life will never be ‘back to normal’.

The problem is, no one knows the long-term effects of these vaccines – and being told to have one if we want to travel, just doesn’t feel right.

Well, right now anyway – and it seems, I’m not alone.

A poll of more than 72,600 readers showed that while 38 per cent would have the vaccine immediately – 37 per cent will wait. And another 25 per cent won’t at all, citing safety concerns.

Now I have absolute faith in the medical professionals who put their own health on the line to get us through the coronavirus crisis, and I have no doubt that the vaccine they are working on will be tested, proven and developed to the very best of their abilities.

But for it to do its job, it feels like we all have to be guinea pigs.

Me, you, our grandparents, our colleagues, our friends. It’s a big risk – and it could pay off.

And if during an initial rollout numbers are limited – it should be given to the vulnerable, not the people itching to get back to a life of international travel.

A vial of the Oxford University’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, known as AZD1222. It’s been hailed as a potential "vaccine for the world”. Picture: AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD / John Cairns.Source:AFP

I know that before I give my kids this new vaccine, whenever it is available, I will be doing my research.

I’ll be talking to doctors, nurses and clinicians. I’ll be reading everything available, listening to trusted leaders and trying to understand it all as best I can. That’s my responsibility, and the decision at the end of all that, is also mine.

It’s a big decision, and a mammoth responsibility. The biggest, in fact.

Because I’ve seen first hand how important vaccinations are.

When my daughters were aged one and three, they both got the chickenpox. Of course, they were both fully vaccinated, so we weren’t worried. But we were confused – because for my three-year-old it was very mild. She had maybe two or three spots if that – while my darling little one-year-old got hundreds. HUNDREDS.

She was absolutely covered, head to toe. The doctor thought maybe it was a faulty batch of the vaccine, so essentially she got a case of the virus as someone who wasn’t vaccinated at all. And it was horrendous.

She itched and scarred and was utterly miserable, as we all were for seeing a little baby so unwell.

That experience showed me just how important effective vaccines can be. I am all up for anything that can protect us and our little people against nasty illnesses we can avoid, like the chickenpox.

A technician working on the University’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine, known as AZD1222. Picture: AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD / John Cairns.Source:AFP

So all I am hoping is that the clever people developing the COVID-19 vaccine help us understand how important this jab is. I hope they have the facts to reassure us that it works, that there won’t be any nasty effects in 50 years, and that it will do more good than harm.

I need to know I am protecting my family to the best of my ability, and I will trust medical advice given to us by people who know – it is something that will take time, though.

And until then, threatening to take our travel options away will see people jump ship and stay close to home. Not that I think we will be (safely) travelling overseas next year, or even the year after that.

Because even though life is leading us down the path of near normalcy, there’s a long way to go yet. We still can’t even have our whole family over to celebrate Christmas – I don’t think travelling the world will be high on anyone’s agenda just yet – as much as we wish it were.

Joyce has the right to protect his staff, his passengers, his airline’s reputation. Just like I have the right to do what I feel is right for my children.

So let’s hope there is a vaccine soon. Let’s hope we all feel comfortable to have it, and it works.

But until then, no jab, no fly will just give us more time to enjoy this spectacular country of ours, because that decision is in our hands, not Joyce’s. And it’s one I’ll be making for the protection of my family – not to take them on holidays.

Lisa Mayoh is a freelance writer.

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