Debate swirls: individual choice versus public health

Debate continues to swirl around the Covid-19 vaccines.

The vaccination debate continues across New South Wales, with concern both for and against vaccination as the state moves to make it mandatory for certain workers in healthcare and education to get the jab before coming to work.

Locally, paramedic and Snowy Valleys Deputy Mayor John Larter has spoken against forced vaccinations, saying it should be left to individual responsibility to either have the jab or risk contracting the virus.

Local businesswoman Hansie Armour said it’s not that simple when it comes to working with vulnerable people.

“I’ve just had a few people call me … one lady who is elderly … they are concerned,” she said.

Mrs Armour agreed that each individual should be able to choose whether they have a vaccination or not, but said there also need to be broader concerns for those who work with the public.

“It’s a two-way street, any of that sort of thing,” she said.

“If I were to have a heart attack and [an unvaccinated paramedic] turned up with the ambulance, I’d say, ‘Stay out of my way.’”

Mrs Armour said that anyone who is dealing with vulnerable members of the population should either be vaccinated or be taking some kind of additional measures to ensure that patients or clients feel safe.

She criticised Mr Larter’s reluctance to say whether he will be vaccinated or not.

“He’s not saying one way or the other. Nobody really knows whether he is or he isn’t,” she said.

“If I were some of these elderly people that don’t totally understand the process, I can understand their concern.

“When you are in trouble, you should be able to have full faith in the people who are going to look after you.”

Mr Larter said he felt comfortable with the rules already in place within the ambulance service and has always been fully compliant with the service’s vaccine program and protective equipment.

He added that he’s not hiding his personal record.

“I think it’s pretty clear I’m not vaccinated,” he said.

Mr Larter said there wasn’t clear evidence that vaccination prevents transmission, but that it was largely designed to prevent a person who is already vaccinated from suffering serious effects from the virus.

He said the ambulance service’s guidelines around protective equipment are more useful in preventing transmission of the disease.

“In my opinion, there is no more risk to an elderly person being picked up in an ambulance [with paramedics who are] vaccinated or not vaccinated. You’re wearing safety equipment that’s designed to be two way, protecting us from being infected and them from being infected… There’s been absolutely minimal transmission amongst paramedics in the ambulance service to date, when we haven’t had vaccinations [mandated].”

Mr Larter said his personal feeling is that he doesn’t yet have enough information to feel comfortable making a decision on getting the vaccine, but guaranteed he would comply with any and all requirements of the ambulance service.

“I’m complying with everything that’s mandated,” he said, adding that the goal posts have shifted since he first chose his profession.

“It’s not about feeling safe, it’s about what is safe.”

Mrs Armour owns The Abbey Footwear in Tumut and said she predicts that sewage testing in the Snowy Valleys – as foreshadowed by Deputy Premier John Barilaro last Thursday – will find traces of Covid in the local area.

As of yesterday, no such detection had been found.

“It’ll be there,” she said. “There’s an awful lot of Canberra people and Victorian people pass through still. 

“The couple of days that I have been down there that I’ve had to do some work, you still see them.”

She said the public shouldn’t be taking any risks as the Delta strain circulates through New South Wales.