IT was disastrous news, and it came via text message on a Saturday night for hundreds of Hunter residents: their vaccine appointments were cancelled due to the need for Pfizer doses in Sydney.
Nobody begrudges Sydney's need as it faces an indefinite lockdown to combat rising case numbers, but the mode of the change leaves much to be desired. As Swansea MP Yasmin Catley says, that vulnerable people in the Hunter are paying the price for what is happening at the other end of the M1 is an indictment of this most crucial system.
The reality is the Hunter region stands on the doorstep of the locked down greater Sydney zone. The risk to those of us who are not vaccinated in this area is not distant; as this newspaper has reported, its realities are visible across the waters of Lake Macquarie.
Simply put, the vaccine rollout fiasco has forced government into a gamble on who can afford to wait longest. Hunter residents who received that text message are entitled to feel they have become collateral in that high-stakes gambit.
More than that, many of those expressing fury at the weekend were people in the 1A and 1B groups caught up in the chaos. Adding insult to injury, they must now listen to leaders implore them to go and get vaccinated after having that opportunity snatched away from them unceremoniously.
"Of course I have empathy for those people, we'd love to be awash in all types of vaccines," Ms Berejiklian said on Sunday when questioned about the "small number" of cancelled appointments. "If you happen to have been asked to wait a couple of weeks, please know the AstraZeneca only has a three-day wait on average."
It was hardly reassurance for people like Michelle Masters and Shannon Bailey. They deserved some, given health authorities were clear some groups would be unaffected.
Despite that, many in those categories were left in limbo too. Ultimately the buck for not being "awash in vaccines" stops with the federal government, who have simply not secured enough vaccine to head off NSW's woes. But the decision to redeploy resources is one made at state level.
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The Hunter's efforts have paid off to now, and health workers deserve respect in spite of the bureaucracy's failings. But the longer we wait for vaccine, the key pillar of the government's own roadmap out of the pandemic, the more likely we test our luck.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian often thanks the regions for their efforts to keep the virus at bay. Thanks rings hollow alongside the premier's suggestion Novocastrians explore AstraZeneca after losing Pfizer doses. It is a puzzling one given patients here had made appointments and that option was equally available to those in Sydney.
On Sunday, Ms Berejiklian said there was little spread beyond the eight Sydney areas in lockdown. We hope that stays the case, but hope will not protect the region from risk if it does not. The fact that hope is our best option for the time being is a damning reflection on where we stand.
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