COVID-19 in the sewage has Edgeworth's Shannon Bailey feeling cheated and scared

Scared: Shannon Bailey had his Pfizer jabs cancelled at the Belmont hub. He's scared that the virus could be in the Hunter. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Scared: Shannon Bailey had his Pfizer jabs cancelled at the Belmont hub. He's scared that the virus could be in the Hunter. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Shannon Bailey is "downright scared" now that high rates of COVID-19 have been found in Newcastle's sewage.

Mr Bailey - who has a lung condition - was among thousands of Hunter residents who had their Pfizer jabs cancelled at the Belmont Vaccination Hub, so Sydney HSC students in COVID hotspots could be vaccinated.

Mr Bailey's first Pfizer shot had been scheduled for Thursday, but was "unintentionally" cancelled. Hunter New England Health is yet to inform him about when his jabs will be rescheduled.

He has asthma and respiratory troubles, including scarring on his lungs. He was in the phase 1b priority group for a vaccine.

"It's downright just scary - the fact it's going to come up here [the virus]," Mr Bailey said, referring to concern over COVID in the sewage.

He felt "very cheated" that his vaccination bookings had been cancelled.

"The solution isn't taking vaccines from an area that is actively trying to minimise the risk and giving them to an area that doesn't seem to be able to contain the virus.

"You feel like you don't matter anymore. You're just another number."

He had managed to book a Pfizer shot at a Nelson Bay GP, but "it's not until the middle of September" and "they can't guarantee it".

"I have a gut feeling it's going to be too late," he said.

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Mr Bailey said it was "a little bit terrifying" to know that the virus was possibly circulating in the Hunter, given the sewage detections.

"Not only is it scary, you're looking over your shoulder now. Every time somebody coughs, you think 'crap, what's going on'," he said.

He and his wife Cassie, who has just gone through breast cancer, have two kids.

"Now that high levels are detected in our sewage area, once again my house goes completely into lockdown."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said that once 50 per cent vaccination rates are reached, some lockdown laws could be relaxed.

This is terrifying for some unvaccinated people in the Hunter, such as Merewether's Cathy Olds.

"The regions could still be unvaccinated, which is making me even more nervous," said Mrs Olds, a diabetic, who also had her Pfizer shots at the Belmont hub cancelled.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Taylor Martin, said up to 40,000 Pfizer doses were being "redistributed from NSW Health's rural and regional supply - including 5500 from across the Hunter".

Mr Martin said they would be "lent to south-west and western Sydney, to help vaccinate Year 12 students in the local government areas most affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak".

Year 12 students had their "senior years of schooling massively impacted".

"No resident in the Hunter will miss out on being vaccinated as a result of this decision, although it will mean that some delayed appointments in the next few weeks will be rescheduled."

He said Year 12 students in south-west and western Sydney "deserve to be safe and finish their schooling in the same way that Year 12 students in the Hunter are - in the classroom".

"Through previous tough decisions over the last 18 months, we have successfully kept COVID out of the Hunter for a long time. The biggest threat to that right now is the growing spread of the virus in Sydney.

"We need to do everything we can to combat COVID in Sydney, to keep a lid on it and ensure the current outbreak is contained."

Mr Martin said the detection of COVID-19 at sewage treatment plants in the Lower Hunter was "an important reminder for locals to get tested as soon as any symptoms appear".

"The Central Coast has had eight separate COVID-19 cases during this outbreak, but thanks to residents doing the right thing and getting tested as soon as symptoms appeared and then isolating, there has not been any confirmed cases of transmission beyond the household."

Mr Martin compared the vaccination situation to the bush fires.

"During summer, when there are bushfires we don't hoard the RFS [Rural Fire Service] for ourselves," Mr Martin said.

"We share resources and send them to the regions where they are needed most. Our response during a pandemic should be no different.

"We should have empathy for those most affected and do whatever we can to get through it together."

Swansea MP Yasmin Catley said it wasn't fair to compare "a vaccine that's essential to health with sending resources to fight a fire".

"I don't think that washes."

This story A frightening virus for the unvaccinated first appeared on Newcastle Herald.