Opinion Jane Gilmore: All the things that carry more risk than the AstraZeneca vaccine
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Jane Gilmore: All the things that carry more risk than the AstraZeneca vaccine

AstraZeneca blood clot risks
My weekend is far riskier than the AstraZeneca vaccine, Jane Gilmore writes. Photo: Getty/TND
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Melbourne is still recovering from the lockdowns that turned most of 2020 into a lonely, panic-stricken haze.

And yet, as we’re facing another potential COVID outbreak, vaccine hesitancy is still a problem for more than half the population.

I understand the fear. RISK OF DEATH BY BLOOD CLOTS scaremongering is high and death is always scary.

But looking at the reality of the risk helps put it into perspective. If I were to get the AstraZeneca jab on Saturday, I would have a 0.6 in 100,000 chance of developing blood clots.

(And only 25 per cent of people who develop a blood clot will die from it, so that’s a 0.2 in 100,000 chance.)

If I don’t get the vaccine this weekend, there’s a whole lot of other things I will probably do, and all of them are much riskier than getting vaccinated.

I need to change a lightbulb in my bedroom, hang a picture and fix the exhaust fan in the bathroom.

Hardly sounds dangerous, but the risk of death or injury by toddling about our homes with a ladder and a power drill is nine times higher than the risk of developing blot clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

And that’s because I’m a woman. If I was a man, the risk of death or injury from DIY home activities goes up to 37 times higher.

I’ll probably need to go to somewhere to buy screws and whatever else I need for the DIY stuff.

Jumping in the car to drive to Bunnings is something I do without even thinking about it.

But I’m nine times more likely to have a car accident than I am to suffer serious side effects from the COVID vaccine.

If I survive my expedition up the ladder, I’ll probably meet some friends for a drink on Saturday evening.

I never drive when I’m drinking so I’ll walk to our local bar (only slightly higher risk of death than the vaccine) but I have been known to have a few more than the recommended safe number of four standard drinks per day.

My risk of alcohol-related death would be just over eight times higher than getting the AstraZeneca jab.

But it’s been a long week and I very much doubt that’s going to stop me.

vaccine hub
Melburnians queue for their COVID-19 vaccination at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre vaccination hub at the start of May. Photo: AAP

Although I am contentedly single and not at all looking to meet a man, it’s a big city and you never know what might happen on a Saturday night in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. If I was to meet Prince Charming, you’d think the biggest fear would be that he’d turn into a frog.

Sadly, the Prince is almost twice as likely to kill me as the vaccine and a staggering 24,000 times more likely to injure me.

Still, if he’s tall and interesting, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll at least agree to a dinner or movie later in the week.

If things go further and I need to think about the contraceptive pill, I’ll be taking on a risk of blood clots that is almost 70 times higher than the vaccine.

But, like millions of other Australian women, that risk is better than risking an unwanted pregnancy.

Assuming I live through the night, I might be feeling a little rough on Sunday after my high-risk alcohol intake the night before.

Sometimes, after a bit of over-indulgence, I take myself down to the beach and try for a sea cure (works surprisingly well and the colder the better). I’m almost twice as likely to drown as I am to die from the vaccine, but shaking off the Sunday morning seediness is totally worth it.

After my dangerous weekend, flirting with death at every turn, I’ll go back to work on Monday (well, I’ll go back to work if Melbourne isn’t locked down again by then).

I might ride my bike there (2.4 times more likely to kill me than AstraZeneca) and spend the day at my workplace, where I am also 2.4 times more likely to die and nearly 1500 times more likely to be injured, than I am by getting vaccinated.

These are all the ordinary, everyday risks of death and injury that are far higher than the risk of vaccination.

And it doesn’t take into account my risk of catching COVID if it were to spread through Australia as it has through India, the US and Brazil.

Fear can be a useful emotion. It stops us doing things than can kill or hurt us.

But if fear isn’t tempered by reason, we can end up unreasonably, unsafely fearful and avoid doing things that actually protect us.

The minute risk of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine are nothing compared to the risk of COVID spreading throughout Australia.

At best, that could mean we go back to another lockdown.

At worst, tens maybe even hundreds of thousands of people could die.

Mass vaccination is the only effective thing we can do to ensure that doesn’t happen.

A couple of quiet days at home, maybe feeling a bit off-colour after the vaccination, is far safer than anything else I might do this weekend.

Jane Gilmore is a freelance journalist with a strong interest in campaigning against violence against women. She also founded The King’s Tribune