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Queensland’s top doctor warns life won’t suddenly return to normal with a coronavirus vaccine

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer says she is worried life may not return to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic, even with the help of a vaccine.

For the past 10 months, Jeannette Young has been tactfully guiding the state through the worst health crisis she has ever experienced in her career.

While many Australians have been holding out hope for a vaccine, Dr Young has warned it might not be the silver bullet many are hoping for.

“I don’t know what’s going to get us out of this,” Dr Young said of the pandemic.

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Speaking at an Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) breakfast in Brisbane, Dr Young told a crowd of health professionals a firm date for a return to normality could not be solely based on future vaccinations or treatments.

“They’re talking about it probably being 50 per cent effective.

“The predictions early on for Queensland — we were expecting to see around 10,000 deaths in the first wave.

“If we just let it be and you’ve got a vaccine, that means half out of all of those [may still die].”

‘We can’t stay as we are’

But Dr Young conceded current COVID-19 “processes” were not sustainable long-term.

“We can’t stay as we are, we just can’t — this is not tenable to continue,” she said.

“It’s not good for mental health, let alone all the other issues and our economy.”

A middle-aged woman with silver hair speaks at a podium in a garden as younger man in suit looks on.
Dr Jeannette Young says struggling young people risk being a “totally lost generation”.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

During the event, which was aimed at highlighting the mental toll the pandemic has taken on people, Dr Young was asked how she coped with personal and professional pressures throughout the year.

She revealed she had started exercising daily in a bid to help with the stress and this had “really anchored” her.

‘A totally lost generation’ of young people

During her speech, Dr Young said she was not surprised COVID-19 was impacting the mental health of young people the most.

“I think our young people as a generation are really going to struggle,” she said.

“I think that’s where we’ve got to put as many resources as we can.”

Dr Young has been Queensland Chief Health Officer for the past 15 years.

This is the second pandemic she has managed since the 2009 bird flu pandemic and she credits the success Queensland has had in comparison to other states to its experience in dealing with disasters like cyclones.

“Because we know how to prepare for things, we have really good systems in place,” she said.

“Government works well with the senior bureaucracy and people understand what needs to be done and do it.”

Dr Young said timing was key and when Australia was heading in the “exact same direction” as other countries, Queensland responded quickly.

“No one ever makes decisions in days, that just never happens — except in a disaster, and that’s what Queensland turned on very early,” she said.

“That was the big difference.”


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