The lives of immunocompromised people in NSW became less free yesterday. Judging by our eagerness to celebrate ‘Freedom Day’, I can’t help wondering if many of us realise this? Or do we simply not care?
My friend is immunocompromised. She has Cystic Fibrosis and was one of Australia’s earliest double lung transplant recipients. For her, one shot of an mRNA vaccine is 17 per cent effective, with a second one lifting this to about 50 per cent; significantly lower levels of protection compared to people with normally functioning lungs and immune systems.
There was some relief last week when it was announced that immunocompromised people can receive booster jabs. But it’s too early to know how effective they will be. Data from Israel where boosters have already commenced rolling out show 33 per cent of lung transplant recipients developed antibodies after the shot. This suggests to me that boosters alone may not be enough.
Reducing the amount of virus circulating in the community is the best bet for my friend and other immunocompromised people in our communities, especially for children who cannot access vaccinations yet. But as we lift restrictions in coming weeks there will be a spike in COVID19 cases, and the immunocompromised, elderly and people with disabilities will be the ones most likely to die.
I don’t think I could describe what ‘Freedom Day’ must have felt like for parents of children who are immunocompromised and unvaccinated. I won’t even try because it won’t be enough. But as I watch people celebrate their lock down liberation, I feel nervous for my friend.
For her, ‘Freedom Day’ is anything but.
Instead, she and her family will retreat further into isolation with the memory of an excruciatingly close call playing on their minds. Just weeks ago, her 16-year-old daughter was exposed to COVID19 at the café she works. We all breathed hefty sighs of relief when their tests came back negative.
But now her daughter would rather give up her job than put her family through that ordeal again.
NSW Premier’s Dom Perrottet’s tweet describing people’s nervousness towards the loosening restrictions as “extreme rhetoric” that we shouldn’t let “muddy the waters”, dismisses the very clear reality now faced by my friend and many other immunocompromised adults and children.
There’s a lot of extreme rhetoric out there, but don’t let it muddy the waters.— Dom Perrottet (@Dom_Perrottet) October 8, 2021
We’re moving steadily and safely back toward freedom – and the faster we hit our targets, the faster we get there. https://t.co/bxAVCAPkEt
And now there are many people goading the anxious, declaring: “I’m not afraid of freedom!”.
But I can assure you, my friend is not a coward. In fact, I think she may be much braver than you.
Because she won’t regain her freedom until this pandemic is over. But when will that day finally come for her?