Locked down in Victoria again!! (Just another Groundhog Day here in Melbourne). Let me hit Pause in this tale of The Year My Career Broke, for yet another unofficial COVID update. Back in Chapter 1, gentle readers, our long winter months of lockdown seemed extreme. But then finally effective. Then in Chapter 6 we saw a short, sharp February lockdown. But by then we knew the drill, and again it worked.

But as governments say, these are circuit-breakers, not solutions. And now it’s May – and again the city’s empty streets are on our nightly news. So this week in Sydney you might be out watching Hamiltonlive on stage. But here I’ll be back on my sofa, drawing solace from Stan and Netflix. Nowhere near the room where it happens, as Hamilton fans might say.

An upside of the outbreak is the urgency it has sparked, in Victoria and beyond. New and virulent virus strains will keep emerging around the world and find their way here. As borders re-open, fresh outbreaks will be a clear and present risk. As the state government put it when announcing the latest lockdown, vaccination is “our only real ticket out of this pandemic.”

So – what all Australians now need to know is that this is the new new normal: a world where unless most are vaccinated here, no-one’s ever fully safe from outbreaks elsewhere. As we know, the slow pace so far of Australia’s rollout reflects many factors. (None as simple as partisans suggest: the blame-shifting and politicking around this week’s lockdown is a tedious distraction from what communities need to know, and what the media should focus on).

One factor is community hesitancy about if/when/which jabs are needed. The lack of viral spread gave us space to plan – but its flip side was few checks or filters on the spread of public apathy. Updates on the official rules and options don’t help with this. But situations evolve, so policy shifts must happen.

Offshore factors too have had their effects, on local supply and distribution shortfalls. In March we imported fewer vaccine doses as Europe redirected supply to meet production delays and infection crises closer to home.

And on the home front, our 2020 plan to design and deliver 50 million “local brew” doses was shelved in December, when clinical trials at the University of Queensland showed flawed results. No strategy can ever be perfect. And as we’ve seen for a year now, shift happens. With luck, our rollout will scale up more flexibly if people can mix and match AZ and Pfizer jabs so supply shortfalls of any type won’t delay your second jab.

Meanwhile on the public health awareness front, local critics say our government vaccination ads have hardly been seen. That in Sydney you’ll find more ads to see Hamilton than to get vaccinated. And others say that the ads we do see seem too boring to engage communities. They have a point. So … here’s my May 2021 Melbourne Lockdown free non-expert advice on Australian vaccination rollout messaging.

Suggested “No More Lockdowns” lyrics for My Shot
Syringe image source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health https://twitter.com/johnshopkinssph/status/1301597884836646912?lang=en

First, we need a wider range of government-endorsed ads on this, to engage the huge range of audiences that make up the Australian public. (As any government agency knows, this isn’t easy at all. For a start, we have some 50 languages spoken across the country).

Second, we should hire lots of writers, performers and marketers to help make the push for vaccine uptake go a bit more viral in Australia. (Example: a performance in the style of Hamilton.)

No More (Melbourne) Lockdowns song

(Apologies to Hamilton)

HAMILTON SINGS:

I am not throwin’ away my Shot

I am not throwin’ away my Shot

I’m like the State of my Nation

Wakin’ up in frustration

And I am not throwin’ away my Shot!

We’re gonna Roll-Right-Out

With this comm-unity

We’re gonna open-up our hope

Of Herd Imm-unity!

We’re gonna Boost-The-Nation

With a Wave of Vacci-Nation

And I am not throwin’ away my Shot!

CHORUS SINGS:

We’re gonna Roll-Out (Time to take a shot!)

We’re gonna Roll-Up (Time to take a shot!)

We’re gonna Open-Up (Take a shot! Take a shot!) …

Third, whatever their style and format, the main messages need to link to current official advice (as per below). At its simplest, our longstanding message of saving lives and livelihoods could be reprised now as more jabs, more jobs (as the OECD puts it).

Fourth, we should call on all Australian agencies, media outlets, corporations etc. to promote these messages directly to their own communities and networks. We can’t have too many channels, or too many links back to official advice.

Source: Australian Government Department of Health https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccination-campaign-materials/covid-19-vaccination-campaign-videos/covid-19-vaccines-campaign-advertisements

Fifth, popular programs such as the ABC’s Gruen Transfer should review vaccination messaging from around the world, and highlight their best picks for promoting uptake in Australia. For example, two weeks ago, China’s Sichuan Province released a pretty catchy rap song, Get Jabbed Quick.

Sichuan Health Commission Get Jabbed Quick song. Source: South China Morning Post
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V0LcoQy7nE

Another example: four weeks ago the Singapore government released perhaps the most infectious vaccination ad yet seen. A two-minute rap performance of Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi manages to rally, inform and entertain in equal doses. Singing in Singlish, its comedy celebrities dance and debate their way across community hesitancy, expert advice and the public benefits if more people get shots.

Gurmit Singh and Irene Ang sing Get your shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi.
Source: https://www.gov.sg/features/covid-19-vaccination

And finally, back here in Australia, our rollout logistics need to match official messaging about what people can do, and when and how to do it. In Melbourne this week, a surge in calls to hotlines overwhelmed the booking system, with major delays and drop-outs. Lack of system readiness must have left many Melburnians (the baby boomers, at least) rewriting Rolling Stones songs in their heads to express pre-vaccination frustration.

Mick Jagger sings: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrIPxlFzDi0

(Update, 2 June: the state government has decided to extend our 7 day lockdown to 14 days. And if it extends much beyond this, we’ll be lamenting yet another winter of discontent.)

Ah well. Whether sitting in lockdown or waiting to book your jab, there’s at least some solace for those not getting out to see Hamilton anytime soon. Just for now, let me recommend again Chris Mann’s 2020 lockdown parody song My Corona (see Chapter 6). And his newly posted 2021 My Corona update – this time about waiting for vaccination in the US.

And for university students and staff who’ve been feeling like disembodied Zoom zombies, I recommend Cambridge University scholar/musician Simone Eringfeld’s recent Please Hold album.

(Sigh) enjoy, gentle readers – and don’t throw away your shot.

Chris Mann sings My Corona Pt 2, March 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZvkZ14_HA0 

Afterword – expert advice and commentary just in, worth reading!

Late May/early June 2021 commentary

Dr Jason Thompson, This lockdown is different – in a good way

Prof Nathan Grills, Don’t be that person

Prof Fiona Russell and Dr John Hart, Can I get AstraZeneca now and Pfizer later?

Prof Catherine Bennett, It’s time for Australia to drop its phased approach to the vaccine rollout

Prof Karlheinz Peter and Dr James McFadyen, How rare are blood clots after the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Prof John Carroll, Diary of a Melburnian in our second winter of discontent

Dr Jill Newby and Dr Peter Baldwin, Lockdowns don’t get easier the more we have them. Melbourne, here are 6 tips to help you cope

Dr Kylie Quinn and Dr Jennifer Juno, How long to COVID vaccines take to start working?

Prof Nancy Baxter and Prof Tony Blakely, Why do our COVID outbreaks always seem to happen in Melbourne? Randomness and back luck

Waleed Aly, Enough loose lockdown talk

Peter van Onselen, Ready or not, the nation will re-open

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