With a little help from friends, women over 50 face down vaccine fears

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Dr Rio has observed this in her own group, where a 55-year-old walking mate who had reservations talked it through and went ahead.

Melbourne podcaster Deborah Blashki-Marks and her friend, clothing manufacturer and importer Karen Walsh, are among many peers who have weighed up the potential risks of catching COVID-19, the desire to get life back to normal and vaccination, and gone ahead.

“The girls I walk with were all like, ‘we’re waiting’ … and two girls I walk with were saying, ‘I’m not doing it, I’m too scared’. I think there was a little bit of complacency,” said Ms Blashki-Marks. “My daughter who is a med student said, ‘just do it Mum’. I felt it was going to free me and it set a good example.

People were in denial about the threat of COVID and there was major denial vaccines were going to be effective or would make a difference.

Podcaster and AstraZeneca vaccinated Melbourne woman Deborah Blashki-Marks

“I read everything. An interesting thing is people were in denial about the threat of COVID and similarly there was major denial the vaccines were going to be effective or would particularly make a difference … a big driver for me was to be able to see my ageing parents and know they were safe.”

After having the AstraZeneca she worked on concerned friends, including one whose attitude had been, “I’m scared, I’m too nervous” but with whom Ms Blashki-Marks “talked incessantly about the vaccine with” and convinced to book hers in.

Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp receiving her COVID-19 jab.Credit:Instagram

Ms Walsh said having weighed the pros and cons, she concluded “life is full of fear and risk, this is something so huge for us [the pandemic] it’s not something about which you can say, ‘I’m not going to do it’.”

“I think everyone has to sit down and say there’s a risk and fear in everything you do; you cross the road and there’s a risk. We need to get out of this and how we are all going to get out of this collectively is the important thing.”

Ms Walsh also found herself becoming somewhat irritated by a friend insisting waiting was more sensible, and eventually convinced her and helped her book in.

For some peer groups though, the discussion remains tense.

Teacher Jennie Herold, who lives in the Dandenong Ranges, is the lone advocate among a group of women over 50 with whom she runs and has had friends try to talk her out of having AstraZeneca.

We know as women over 50 we generally don’t matter, it’s this sense of neglect, that we just don’t rate.

Football broadcaster Nicole Hayes

“They are very much not going to get it and adamant it’s not proven the side effects don’t outweigh the benefits of waiting, they don’t want to put it in their body,” said Ms Herold.

“I had to tell my friend who I run with this morning that I work at a school and at some point I will come into contact with COVID-19 … these are people who would usually take a vaccine in their 50s and 60s.

“I said to a friend jokingly if I struggle to run the next day and turn into a zombie, I give you permission to shoot me. She looked at me in absolute horror because for her, that’s an absolute reality that I could be severely adversely affected.”

Ms Herold had a “tense” talk with one running friend who is strongly against having the vaccine. “We were almost yelling as we were running, we had to have the conversation that we respect each other’s opinions and choices, and the friendship was valuable [despite the disagreement].”

Nicole Hayes (far right) with her peers on The Outer Sanctum podcast, had AstraZeneca after “putting my faith in science and certain commentators”.

Nicole Hayes (far right) with her peers on The Outer Sanctum podcast, had AstraZeneca after “putting my faith in science and certain commentators”.Credit:Eddie Jim

Nicole Hayes, a broadcaster with the AFL podcast, The Outer Sanctum, also discussed AstraZeneca with her old school group, in which the only nurse made the case “gently”.

Hayes has compromised immunity due to rheumatoid arthritis, and had received “a sense at the time that the clotting issue was more likely to affect women than men”. But she “put my faith in science and certain commentators” and had the vaccination.

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She can understand the anger of some women over 50 about lack of choice: ”I think it’s that sense that there’s not a choice for us, like the Pfizer is not appropriate to me because it needs to be prioritised for those who can’t have AstraZeneca.

“It’s the only option being presented to us because of a complete stuff-up by the federal government; we know as women over 50 we generally don’t matter. It’s this sense of neglect, that we just don’t rate.”

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