AZ hesitancy stalls rollout

Priceline Dandenong pharmacist Marina Baselyous with an AstraZeneca dose. 250339_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Vaccine hesitancy is being reported from the front-line of Greater Dandenong pharmacies.

Pharmacies have been delivering free doses of AstraZeneca since August, with Moderna for over-12s to come within weeks.

AstraZeneca had so far been a hard sell, says Adam Younes, the proprietor of Priceline and Terry White pharmacies in Dandenong Plaza.

Many customers were instead requesting Pfizer, which is not available at pharmacies and seemingly in short supply anywhere else.

“You still see a divide over who is comfortable to take the vaccine or not, what is safer – whether it’s AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

“The way it’s played out in the media, it’s impacted on people’s perception of safety.”

Mr Younes said it took “extra effort” to educate customers on how rare and minimal the vaccine side-effects are.

“The risk of getting a clot is nearly as likely with taking Nurofen as it is getting thrombosis from AstraZeneca.

“On an international level, AstraZeneca is the most commonly used vaccine for Covid in the world. And it offers longer immunity than Pfizer.”

Richard Lim, a Greater Dandenong councillor who runs Lim’s Pharmacy in Springvale, has jabbed 880 customers with AstraZeneca in the past month.

But he also detects a great reluctance for the vaccine among Greater Dandenong’s culturally diverse community.

Cr Lim said each community’s leaders had the power to influence residents with just a single text message.

The council also needed to use Facebook and social media to spread the message, he said.

“We need to work harder to tell the constituents what the benefits are compared to the risks.

“If they contract Covid, people can die or suffer really badly in hospital.”

However, there was a rush of younger people desperate to get vaccinated to end the lockdown, he said.