WITH Victoria in the midst of its sixth COVID lockdown, medical experts, politicians and communal leaders are urging members of the Jewish community to get the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine as soon as possible.
“Australia is in a very tricky position currently,” co-chair of the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee, Professor Sharon Lewin, told The AJN this week.
“We need 70-80 per cent vaccination to allow us to move forward to open up as a country and we are a long way off that,” she said.
Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute and head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Melbourne University, said, “I would recommend that all adults get vaccinated as soon as possible and with what’s available to you. AstraZeneca is a very good vaccine and reduces the chance of hospitalisation by over 95 per cent, including infection with Delta.
“Everyone can do their part by getting vaccinated,” she said, adding, “It’s safe, it’s highly effective and it’s the only way we can eventually find a way to live safely with COVID.”
The Victorian government, meanwhile, is rolling out a new campaign called “Vaccine Champions” to ensure all communities are on board. Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence explained, “It’s important Victorians do their bit and get vaccinated – and we are indebted to faith leaders who play such a vital role in getting that important message out.”
ARK Centre’s Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann was vaccinated on Monday as part of the initiative, calling it “an important step to getting back to normal”.
“As a Victorian government Vaccine Champion, I urge everyone who is eligible to go and get vaccinated,” he said. “We want to be able to celebrate our lifecycle and communal events together and vaccinations are the key.”
The sentiment was echoed by Mount Scopus College principal Rabbi James Kennard. “My wife and I received the AstraZeneca jab just as soon as we were eligible and are now excited to be fully vaccinated,” he said.
“There may have been a risk, but there is a risk with every medicine, and with every crossing of the road – and the risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID is much greater.
“At Scopus, we are encouraging all eligible staff to get vaccinated. I would encourage everyone to get whatever vaccine is available as soon as possible – for themselves, for their families and for the community around us.”
Rabbi Shlomo Kohn of Congregation Adass Israel concurred, telling The AJN, “the school and shule has strongly encouraged its staff to be vaccinated”.
However, while the vast majority of communal leaders are urging members to get the jab, The AJN understands that one ultra-Orthodox rabbi was speaking out against vaccination. The AJN tried to contact him but our calls were ignored.
“Any reports of this nature are very disappointing,” said Labor Member for Macnamara Josh Burns, who told The AJN, “Throughout the pandemic, the Rabbinical Council has led brilliantly and encouraged people to follow the health advice, and it is up to all of us to continue to do so.”
Burns, who has received the AstraZeneca shot, added, “Getting vaccinated is the most important thing for your health. To protect your family and friends, and to help your country get to the other side of this pandemic.”
Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Daniel Aghion also urged people “to become fully vaccinated at your earliest opportunity, as I have personally done”, emphasising, “The link between community-wide vaccination and returning to the regular rhythm of life we all love is clear.”
Acknowledging that people have concerns about getting the vaccine, Jewish Care CEO Bill Appleby stressed, “It is important we take this collective action and get vaccinated. The simple matter of it is vaccines save lives.
“Jewish Care has been working diligently to make sure our elders, clients, staff and volunteers are offered the vaccine to ensure as safe as possible an environment for all.”
He added, “As a community our strength is in our togetherness.”
Jewish business owners have jumped on board too. Local real estate icon Gary Peer told The AJN, “We are encouraging our team to be vaccinated and keen to have Melbourne and the world open and as safe as possible, once we are all vaccinated and out and about again.”