“It was really to show people that have an underlying health condition that puts them into the phase 1b category, that I’ve got confidence in the vaccine, to be able to take it.”
Ms Murphy, who represents the south-east suburban Melbourne seat of Dunkley, found out she had metastatic breast cancer just days after entering parliament for the first time in 2019. She had been in remission, after first being diagnosed with the disease in 2011.
“I had excellent treatment and, having passed the five-year mark since my diagnosis, we were confident that I was in the clear,” she told this masthead shortly after learning the disease had returned.
Ms Murphy would have been included in phase 1b, as her ongoing cancer treatment meant she was immunocompromised.
From phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, set to begin in late March, people with certain chronic underlying health conditions like Ms Murphy will be able to line up for immunisations.
People who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice, include organ transplant recipients, people who have had a bone marrow transplant, people who have had a blood cancer within the past five years, and people going through chemotherapy radiotherapy.
Those at moderate risk of severe COVID-19 include people with chronic kidney failure, heart disease, other types of cancer that were diagnosed in the past 12 months, and people with chronic liver disease.
People who are immunocompromised are also at an increased risk of severe disease, as are people living with HIV.
ATAGI said based on current data there were no safety concerns with the Pfizer vaccine for people who were immunocompromised, but those people might have a reduced immune reaction to the vaccine that might lead to lower vaccine effectiveness and protection.
However, real world data from the vaccine had been showing good promise in immune impaired populations, infectious disease expert Professor Greg Dore said.
“There’s very, very good data for the Pfizer vaccine in terms of efficacy in older populations, and I think that’s a really good sign that people with some degree of immunocompromise will have a good response,” he said.
“It’s remarkable how effective these vaccines are proving to be, and incredibly reassuring.“
Before getting her first dose this morning, Ms Murphy said she checked with her GP and was given the all-clear. She said those with concerns should do the same.
“I went to my GP and just said, ‘is there any issues with me, with my health condition, taking the vaccine?’ And she was able to say, ‘no, it’s fine. It’s safe’,” she said.
Ms Murphy was vaccinated at Canberra Hospital’s COVID surge clinic on Tuesday morning alongside federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Greens leader Adam Bandt.
Mr Albanese told his Labor colleges in a party meeting that while he was uncomfortable receiving his vaccine before frontline workers, it was important to show the public that the vaccine was effective.
“It’s safe and doesn’t hurt. It’s a very good thing to happen. And it’s important that we encourage, as people in public life, people to get vaccinated,” he said at a press conference after getting his first dose.
Rachel Clun is a federal political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, covering health.
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