Michael Rowland and Norman Swan got AstraZeneca vaccines. Here’s what happened



It started with some friendly breakfast TV banter.Norman Swan was on for his regular spot when, as has often been the case in recent months, the conversation turned to the vaccine rollout.I mentioned I had happily booked my first AstraZeneca shot now the program was open to over-50s.Norman said he happened to be travelling to Melbourne the next day and, instead of a coffee date, we should get vaccinated together.”Sure,” I said, thinking he was probably in such high demand the idea wouldn't go anywhere.As soon as he was out of the studio, Norman was enthusiastically texting about making arrangements, and some on-air spitballing quickly became reality.An absurdly straightforward process The queue moves quickly to get into the centre.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)We met the next morning outside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of the city's mass vaccination hubs.At the risk of inflaming Sydney-Melbourne rivalries, this is something my Sydney colleague can't yet do.Sydney's first vaccination hub, at Olympic Park in Homebush, doesn't open until next week.Until then, people have to rely on their GPs and small medical clinics to get their shots.  People wait in physically distanced chairs for their turn in the vaccination booth.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)It was a beautiful autumn day.Norman surveyed the scene and I am sure I detected a look of envy.It was quite a liberating day for both of us, particularly for Norman, who has spent all of his working hours over the past year helping explain the pandemic and the various vaccines to an anxious public.He has been a valuable source of advice and comfort for audiences across a range of ABC programs, and those who've subscribed to the wildly popular Coronacast podcast.Can I wait for Pfizer? Vaccine questions answeredAs more Australians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations we put your questions to the senior medical adviser for the Victorian vaccine rollout.Read moreThe selfie requests in the time I was with him bear this out.I asked Norman how he felt as we walked through the Convention Centre's doors.”Look, I'm excited to get it, actually. I just want that security of protection. And we've all got to get in there and do it,” he said.”It's playing your part, it helps yourself, it helps your family and the evidence is that it reduces infection rates, so it's going to reduce infection in the community.”Once inside, the process was almost absurdly straightforward. After giving their details, including their Medicare number, the pair were reminded they were getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)The mid-morning queues weren't that long, so people were ushered into the vaccination booths at a steady clip. You can either make a booking, or just turn up.The first step was registering our names and Medicare details with health officials, who asked the standard questions about whether you're feeling well.They reminded us that, as over 50s, it is the AstraZeneca vaccine we are receiving. No problem at all.Over in seconds The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination is now available to anyone over the age of 50.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Then it was into another queue for a turn with a vaccination nurse.I landed with Chris, who works for the Royal Melbourne Hospital and was thrilled to be playing her part in the vaccination effort.In fact, all of the medical professionals I came across were delightful and fully committed to this massive public health project. Vaccine nurse Chris talks Michael Rowland through the process of receiving his shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris asked detailed questions about my medical history, including whether I have suffered blood clots, and, importantly, how I go with needles.After all the build-up, the actual vaccination was a bit of an anticlimax. It was over in seconds. The discussions with the nurse take longer than the process of receiving the shot itself.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris set about explaining some of the possible side effects.These include pain in the injection arm, tiredness, headaches as well as fever and chills.These normally don't appear until a day after the vaccination. The side effects are usually mild and disappear within one or two days. The nurse asks questions to ensure Dr Swan is medically suited to receiving the shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Read more about Australia's vaccine rollout:How serious are the risks of blood clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine?Why is the Astrazeneca vaccine approved for over 50s?A very rare and more serious side effect is blood clotting, with symptoms mostly starting between four and 20 days after the vaccination.As a precaution, everyone had to wait on site for 15 minutes after their dose, and there was a general mood of optimism and determination among those proudly waving their vaccination certificates.A random opinion poll produced some common answers:”I actually think it's important for the community. I think it's necessary for all of us to do it.””I think we all need to get vaccinated. We all need to do the right thing and together we can beat this pandemic.””The sooner we can get through this the better and things can get back to normal and start travelling again. I am sick of it, really, so let's get the ball rolling.”To be honest, I'm pretty sick of it too. It is only through all of us playing our small role in getting vaccinated that we can regain some of the pleasures that we lost once the pandemic struck.Hopefully the small amount of “vaccine hesitancy” will dissipate further once the rollout picks up speed, as it is now showing signs of doing.And if it takes Dr Norman Swan to accompany you personally to your vaccination appointment, I have his number.What you need to know about coronavirus:The symptomsThe number of cases in AustraliaTracking Australia's vaccine rolloutGlobal cases, deaths and testing ratesPosted YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 6:51pm, updated YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 11:03pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppRelated StoriesBrett Sutton gets his first COVID jab as mass vaccination centres open across VictoriaBrenda was in tears as she got her COVID vaccine as hubs open to all Australians over 50More on:MelbourneHealthCOVID-19Vaccines and Immunity

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ABC journalist Michael Rowland reflects on 10 years hosting News Breakfast


Ten years ago, ABC journalist and former North America correspondent Michael Rowland joined Virginia Trioli as co-host of the fledgling News Breakfast.

A decade on, the program has built a strong, loyal audience and Rowland, alongside new co-host Lisa Millar, continues to enjoy the challenge of delivering a mix of serious news and entertainment.

Here’s his reflection on the memorable on-air moments of the past 10 years.

Epic election broadcast

One of the great things about hosting News Breakfast is reporting on major news events as they unfold.

There are often unexpected developments and you need to be able to think your feet.

Our hosting position for the 2016 US election coverage. When we started broadcasting we had no idea we’d still be on air ten hours later.(News Breakfast)

As I prepared to host the News Breakfast US election special from a rooftop near the US Capitol, I made sure I was full bottle on what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean for America and the world, and how improbable it always was for Donald Trump to get anywhere near the Oval Office.

As afternoon turned to night, and key state after key state went to the New York businessman, the three-hour breakfast broadcast became a 10-hour rolling news marathon, as our coverage pivoted to the Republican’s boilover victory.

It was a night to remember.

Still from News Breakfast election coverage showing Rowland presenting at night from outside Capitol Building.
Feeling a bit weary after a marathon broadcast from Washington covering the stunning election of Donald Trump as President.(News Breakfast)

Sausages, anyone?

The massive day began outside a Washington school, turned polling place, as I tried to bring a touch of Australia to US election day.

My colleague Andrew George had the brilliant idea of getting hold of a BBQ so I could cook ‘Democracy Sausages’ for the local voters.

Rowland wearing apron holding tongs and standing behind a BBQ with a sign saying Democracy Sausage Sizzle.
Taking an Aussie election-day tradition to the US.(News Breakfast)

Needless to say, there were more than a few bemused faces as I served up these election morning treats, smothered in ketchup.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, I don’t think the tradition will take on over there.

The taste test I came to regret

Speaking of food, my 10 years on the Breakfast couch has seen me put my body on the line on numerous occasions in the interests of morning TV.

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Biting off more than I could chew

From eye-watering chilli (I’m looking at you, Alice Zaslavsky), to steaming Haggis, to a spaghetti bolognese pie (truly disgusting), to fried insects (surprisingly tasty), I have gone where many breakfast TV hosts, and their stomachs, have feared to tread.

Seeing the drought up close

I have been on the road dozens of times for News Breakfast, but the trip that still leaves a huge impression on me is my visit last year to drought-stricken areas in Queensland and New South Wales.

Rowland holding microphone interviewing farmer in a hat.
On the road in 2019 talking to farmers about the drought during a 900-kilometre journey from Queensland’s Darling Downs to the NSW Central West.(News Breakfast)

Nothing prepared me for the scenes of desolation and it was sobering to spend time with farmers and business owners in the small towns as they spoke of the challenges, but also of their optimism the rain would eventually come.

And the rain has indeed arrived in many of the places I visited, but large parts of the country are still bone dry.

Bushfires

Within a few months of being on the road covering the drought, I was out there again, this time covering the summer of bushfires, first on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, and then on the South Coast as the New Year inferno raged.

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Andrew Constance fights back tears as bushfires rage in his NSW electorate

I had covered bushfires before, notably the 2013 Blue Mountains fires, but these were well and truly off the scale.

A lasting memory is interviewing, live on News Breakfast, the distraught New South Wales Transport Minister and local MP, Andrew Constance, as he spoke of neighbours losing their homes.

MH 17

Over 10 years, we have been live on air as numerous tragedies unfolded, but the big one for me will always be the downing of flight MH17, in July 2014.

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Breaking the news of the downing of flight MH17.

First came the early reports of a plane crashing in eastern Ukraine, then the sinking feeling that a Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was bound to have a fair number of Australians on board.

One day, perhaps, there’ll be true justice for this appalling crime.

Anzac Centenary at Gallipoli

One of the highlights in each of the last 10 years has been our Anzac Day specials, and none more so than in 2015 when I had the privilege of anchoring our coverage from Anzac Cove at Gallipoli of the 100th anniversary of the landings.

Rowland and crew filming in cemetery by the sea under beautiful huge tree branch.
At Gallipoli for the Anzac Centenary in 2015.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

They were long days and even longer nights, with an abundance of technical challenges, but the shows we put to air that week have been among News Breakfast’s finest achievements.

Rowland looking at graves at Anzac Cove with sea in background.
A profound experience being at Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary.(News Breakfast)

The week of ‘madness’

Speaking of long and challenging weeks, the days that culminated in Malcolm Turnbull’s dumping as Prime Minister in August 2018 are certainly up there.

Still frame from News coverage of leadership crisis showing Rowland on air with graphic saying "Morrison wins".
The moment we heard Scott Morrison had won the Liberal leadership in 2018.(ABC News)

I was dispatched to Canberra straight after the first leadership spill on the Tuesday morning and spent the next few mornings broadcasting from an exceptionally chilly parliamentary courtyard, interviewing the key players in the rapidly the unfolding drama.

Wide shot Rowland and Bishop sitting on chairs outside surrounded by camera, lights and production crews.
Interviewing former foreign minister Julie Bishop during the Liberal leadership crisis.(ABC News)

At least I was well prepared.

It was my fifth trip to Canberra in eight years to cover a leadership challenge — hopefully, it will be the last.

Rowland and Turnbull sitting on stools outside Parliament House in Canberra.
A chilly early-morning interview with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the 2017 budget.(ABC News)

In my decade on Breakfast, I have interviewed all the sitting Prime Ministers from Kevin Rudd to Scott Morrison.

Speaking to politicians of all stripes is a key part of the show but getting straight answers from them continues to be one of our ongoing challenges.

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Bulldog glory

I have a confession to make.

I have breached ABC editorial standards hundreds of times over the past 10 years through my incredibly biased support for the mighty Western Bulldogs.

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Celebrating the Bulldogs’ Grand Final victory after 60 years.

A big highlight of my 10 years on Breakfast is cradling the 2016 AFL Premiership Cup, when the bleary-eyed Bulldogs President, Peter Gordon, brought it into the studio on the Monday morning after the Grand Final.

I am sure Peter thought I would never let it go.

Favourite celebrity interview

One of the great joys of the past decade on News Breakfast has been the opportunity to interview some really famous people.

My favourite celebrity interview has to be the one I did in 2016 with Alan Alda, during his visit to Australia to promote science education.

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Alan Alda joins News Breakfast | ABC Backstory

Before the cameras rolled, he had the good grace to pretend it was the first time a journalist had gushed embarrassingly over Hawkeye and M.A.S.H.

During the interview, we spoke about everything from the importance of science to the recent death of Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John in M.A.S.H.

I was walking on air for days afterwards — now all we need to do is line up Hot Lips.

Thanks to the viewers

So, it has been an action-packed 10 years and it is incredibly fulfilling to see our audience grow markedly over the decade.

My thanks to all my fellow presenters, our hard-working team of producers and directors and, most importantly, to you, the viewers.

Without you, we are nothing.



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