‘Swab Land’ was where I first got my COVID experience. When COVID hit and we went into lockdown, I was redeployed to a hectic COVID-testing site where I was fortunate to work with some amazing members of the Australian Defence Force.
Our morning briefing huddles with the army, navy and air force could be regimented and I felt like I was going to war. But the force’s donning and doffing of the dreaded PPE was impeccable and working with them brightened my day during this challenging and anxious time. My life was work, disinfect, sleep, work, disinfect, sleep. I was lucky to have a secure job and I knew that my family was home safe each night and free from the virus, for now anyway. I swabbed hundreds of people in the freezing cold and snow of 2020 and the hot summer heat of 2021.
During the lockdowns, I studied to become a vaccinator. Many desperately wanted the vaccine and many hated it. I worked in one of the first major regional hubs and people came from all over Victoria for the jab. It was one of the reasons to leave the house and some travelled a hundred kilometres or more. It gave them freedom and a nice country drive during this monotonous time. Over the next fifteen months, I vaccinated more than 3,800 adults and children.
I was frowned upon by members of my community, friends and even work colleagues. Vaccine hesitancy was real, and I faced it every day. People came in angry because they had to have ‘the jab’ for employment and survival. I heard the same angry voices most days: ‘It’s not fair.’ ‘It’s my body.’ ‘Dictator Dan’—a swipe at our state premier, Daniel Andrews. ‘It’s poison.’ ‘There’s not enough research.’ Someone even offered me money not to vaccinate them and to throw their dose in the bin, but after some empathy, explanations and a lot of listening, they had the needle.
As well as these challenges, I had many great days and the early days of AstraZeneca, when the vaccine was for people over sixty, were some of my favourites. Our senior community members would come in their Sunday best, usually husband and wife hand in hand. It was a real social outing for them, and my usual five-minute vaccination would take twenty. They were so thankful for our work.
Later came the paediatric vaccinations. Although taxing at times, these little people were absolute troopers and very brave. It was fun to dress up for them. I became Luigi and an astronaut in PPE, and although I was hot and foggy, the kids loved it.
Whether our memories are sanitising, checking in, running out of toilet paper, the New Year’s Eve lockdown, the 1.5-metre social distancing rule or the anxiety of the jab, we all have a story to tell. Some are funny and some are truly devastating. But we were all in it together.