It’s been many months since the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines became available in Australia to protect its citizens against COVID-19. Whilst the Federal Government has been criticised for the rollout of these vaccines, there have been recent incremental changes which are enabling younger people to access the jabs as well.
In locked-down New South Wales, last week represented a significant step in that process, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian launching an “ambitious” plan to vaccinate more than 500,000 young people aged between 16 and 39 in the next three weeks.
Elsewhere, Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena also became a mass vaccination centre for one week from August 9 for Year 12 students living in southwest and western Sydney. The plan saw up to 24,000 students vaccinated with their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Greek Herald reached out to some of these students, as well as other Greek Australian youth who have already received their vaccinations, and asked them what their experience was like.
Connor Fourfouris, Year 12 student, Age: 18
When we speak to 18-year-old Connor Fourfouris, he is just returning home from Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The School Captain from Tempe High School is leading by example after his Year 12 experience was impacted by the NSW lockdown.
“The whole last term we didn’t go back [to school] which does hurt a lot. This term was affected by a lack of face-to-face learning… and also just a lack of social connection with friends,” Connor tells The Greek Herald exclusively.
For Connor, the only answer was to get vaccinated and once his School Principal sent out information to all Year 12 students about Berejiklian’s vaccination drive at the Arena, he jumped at the chance to be the first in line.
“The process was really quick. You just went in, got your vaccine, waited for 15 minutes after and then they did some biohazard thing where they put a swab up your nose… but overall, it took half an hour,” he explains.
“I decided to get it then because during times of uncertainty, all medical advice is pointing to vaccines. So just get it. If everyone gets it as soon as possible, then things will start going back to normal.”
Stella Mullane, Cardiac Technologist, Age: 23
Stella Mullane, who is Greek from her mother’s side, is currently working as a cardiac technologist at a public hospital in Sydney.
The 23-year-old tells The Greek Herald she was offered the Pfizer vaccine in March this year as a healthcare worker and decided to get vaccinated ‘to protect myself, my patients, and my family and friends from COVID-19.’
“This was a very exciting time for me, as like many other Australians I had been waiting for the vaccine since the beginning of the pandemic,” Stella says.
“I was relieved to receive the vaccine as I knew this meant I was less likely to contract or pass on the virus. This made me feel safer at work and at home, knowing I was doing all I could to protect those around me.”
Stella is now fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and says she experienced no serious side effects besides some ‘arm soreness’ and ‘mild fatigue and dizziness after the second dose.’
This positive experience means she’s one of the first people to stand up and encourage others who are vaccine hesitant to seek reliable medical advice and get vaccinated.
“Do your bit for your community – abide by current restrictions, get tested if you have symptoms or are a close or casual contact and go get vaccinated! Remember, your actions can make a huge difference,” she stresses.
Thomas Psaros, Year 12 student, Age: 17
Thomas Psaros is a Year 12 student from Kingsgrove High School and he tells The Greek Herald he was vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine back in March because his dad is an essential worker.
“We were given a text by the NSW Government and they said for us to apply as soon as possible. As soon as we applied, maybe a week later, we were eligible to go,” Thomas explains.
“We went into Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and it was perfect. You went in, got the jab, everyone was treated well, there was no confrontation. It was very, very easy.”
Since then, Greater Sydney was put into a strict lockdown and Thomas’ final year of schooling drastically changed. He was left to deal with ‘constant changes’ and the social element of schooling was ‘taken away.’
This has made the 17-year-old even more vocal about the importance of getting vaccinated to protect everyone.
“If you’re going to go out and knowing the fact that you have a chance of hurting someone or maybe even putting them in danger, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that,” Thomas says.
“Especially for your grandparents, for my yiayia and pappou, knowing they’re at a higher risk [of contracting COVID-19], I wouldn’t want to be responsible for hurting anyone’s grandparents or hurting mine.”
Theodore Kouventaris, Medical Student, Age: 23
As a medical student on hospital placements, Theodore Kouventaris received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in March/April this year at the Westmead Vaccination Hub.
He tells The Greek Herald the decision to get vaccinated was ‘very easy’ for him after he did his research, and the vaccination process was ‘very quick.’
“I had registered beforehand [to the hub], so when I arrived all they had to do was confirm my details. The vaccination workers were reassuring, experienced and professional,” Theodore says.
“After the vaccine, I was monitored for 15 minutes for any allergic reactions. Both times I had very mild symptoms from the vaccine, some tiredness and soreness that night which were resolved by the next day.”
Now, Theodore is helping spread the positive message about getting vaccination to other youth who might be hesitant.
“These vaccines have been tested and they do work. They reduce symptoms, severe illness, ICU admissions and deaths from COVID-19, and they make it less likely to pass the disease on to others,” he stresses.
“I could not bear the thought of my loved ones ending up intubated in the ICU due to COVID-19, when we have free access to safe and effective vaccines in Australia.”
Those Sydneysiders who fit the criteria for an urgent appointment can book in at one of several priority locations via the NSW Government website.