We need to get with the program. The vaccination program. And we need to do it as soon as possible. Getting the jab against COVID-19 will help protect our standard of health, lift our quality of living and boost our economy. It will safeguard the most vulnerable in our communities. We need to do it for the sake of our families, our friends, our work colleagues, our neighbours and the nation. Of course, we need to do it while following government and health authority advice. If you're eligible, and a vaccine is available in your area, front up or book in today to give yourself and Australia a real shot in the arm. Australian Community Media, the publisher of this newspaper, has launched a national campaign called VAXTHENATION to encourage those eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible to help protect our standard of health, lift our quality of living, and boost our economy. Australia's health experts agree that mass vaccination against COVID-19 is our ticket out of a life of snap lockdowns, outbreaks and cancelled plans. That if we each do our bit, then one by one - brick by brick - we will build a barrier to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our community and country from severe illness and death. IN OTHER NEWS: Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of epidemiology, hospital infections and infectious diseases control at the University of NSW said it was imperative we keep ahead of the virus. Vaccination was an "important responsibility". "It's like developing a wall," Professor McLaws, a member of the World Health Organisation's COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidance group, said. "If the majority of people are vaccinated, and the virus escapes from quarantine, or a hotel system, or by opening up the borders - it is likely to hit that barrier and find it more difficult to get past it and get into the more susceptible community, and the general community. "Getting the vaccine is not just a responsibility for your own health, it's a responsibility - and a gift - that we give to everyone we love and the whole community." Professor McLaws said if we had a barrier of vaccinated Australians to a level of 85 per cent, we would not have lockdowns, which cost the economy a "billion dollars a week" in a large city. "A billion dollars would pay for a 4,500-bed purpose-built quarantine facility," she said. "The community has done everything the authorities have asked of them, and the authorities are failing in their duty to improve the quarantine program. But the way we can protect ourselves is through vaccination." Laureate Professor Nick Talley, the editor-in-chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, said while some have suggested getting the vaccine was "not a race", emerging variants of COVID-19 meant it was only a matter of time before the next outbreak, the next lockdown and the next complication. "In some cases, these variants are more transmissible and more infectious, which means the virus is more dangerous, more people can catch it, and more people can get sick and suffer." Professor Talley, an epidemiologist and neurogastroenterologist with Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle, said some of the variants that could escape into the Australian community were so transmissible even lockdowns may not be able to stop future outbreaks. "That's pretty serious, because that has worked well for us so far," he said. "Lockdowns, or lockdown-like approaches which have worked in NSW and Victoria, could fail, potentially, so our protection is the vaccine and to have as many people vaccinated as possible. "The problem is it takes time for the vaccines to work, because you have to have the two full doses to protect you from some of these variants. "With AstraZeneca for example, it's over three months before people are fully protected, because it is 12 weeks between doses. At the moment, most Australians are vulnerable, and they are not going to be protected for quite some time. If we wait, we may be in real trouble." Professor Talley said it was inevitable the virus would leak into the community given how transmissible the new variants were. "We are at high risk of this, and we need to protect the community as much as possible - hence the need for this vaccine campaign," he said. "There is a risk that if we don't have enough people vaccinated, we will have a real dilemma. Do we live life in a way we don't want to? Or do we go back to normal?" Professor Talley said if we went back to "normal", and not enough people were vaccinated, we would have "serious problems". "If you let the virus run rampant through the population, you get more variants, which risks even those who are vaccinated. That's why it is important to vaccinate the world, and the nation, as well as locally," he said. "Not only are you protecting yourself by getting the vaccine, you are protecting family members, and protecting the community. "It is a bit of a selfless act." Professor Talley said the risk associated with a rare clotting disorder linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine was "very small". "But the good news is we can recognise the syndrome quickly, we know about it, there are treatments, and it's a much better situation than it was before," he said. "If you are not vaccinated and you catch COVID, you're at a much higher risk of serious outcomes - death is about 1-in-100, hospitalisations about 10-to-20 in a hundred. "Then there is long COVID - Australian data says up to one-in-three people have long COVID, where the effects of the disease continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. It's clearly better to be vaccinated. The vaccine is our only bet." When borders reopened, there would be transmission. "But if most people are vaccinated, the virus is unlikely to cause as much harm," he said. "The vaccines work against the variants. They are safe and effective. And they are really our only ticket out of this. If you can get vaccinated, when you can get vaccinated, get the jab."