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'Risks a reversal': Critical mistake Govt is making

Stephen Koukoulas
·4-min read
People walking at the crossroad at sunset carrying shopping bags. Sydney, Australia
Image: Getty.

Mass vaccination against COVID-19 will help sustain the Australian economy. 

It is a remarkably simple proposition if people are to go about their business in a pre-COVID-19 way, they have to be immunised from the virus.

Business owners who are linked to international tourism, university education, hospitality and the arts are increasingly angry with the Government and its inability to access vaccinations in a timely manner so that the bulk of the population was vaccinated as soon as possible.

Last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia would be "at the front of the queue" when it came to the roll out of COVID-19 vaccination shots.

This was greeted with hope and optimism. Australia would be one of the first to return to normal with the implementation of a mass vaccination strategy.

Alas for Australia, we were country number 93 in the list. 

In other words, 92 other countries were able to obtain and then start to administer the vaccination before Australia.

Few vaccinations and the fear of COVID-19 outbreaks were and still are constraints on the economy returning to full health. 

Indeed, in recent weeks there have been a number of hot spots where doctors looking after COVID-19 patients were infected because they have not yet been vaccinated.

It is as much an economic issue as it is a health issue.

With around 2 million Australians still unemployed and underemployed and the government set to slash government spending by 16 per cent in real terms next financial year, a healthy and vaccinated society is critical for businesses to reopen, expand and indeed, flourish in a way that boosts job creation.

Front of the queue?

Image: Getty.
Image: Getty.

In addition to Australia being the 93rd country to start vaccinating its citizens, there is a tardiness getting the vaccine into the arms of our population.

The government has been slow and in many cases unable to get the vaccinations to those most vulnerable in the community.

Procrastination, poorly negotiated deals with the manufacturers of the vaccine and an oppressive level of red tape and regulations are behind this tardiness. 

There have been reports of people being turned away from having their first shot because of this administrative malaise.

According to the latest data from Bloomberg, just 0.8 per cent of the Australian population has had their first COVID-19 vaccination shot. And recall it has now been four weeks since the first shot was administered.

This places Australia 73rd on the country list in terms of the breadth of people getting vaccinated.

By way of some comparisons, over 40 per cent of the UK population has had at least one shot. 

The figure for Chile is 29.1 per cent, Bahrain 26.7 per cent, the US 23.9 per cent, Finland 13.1 per cent, Denmark 10.8 per cent, Turkey and Singapore 9.6 per cent, Norway 9.3 per cent, while the bulk of European countries have given the first shot to around 8 or 9 per cent of their populations.

Australia’s scorecard is short by at least 90 per cent.

The Government is now claiming that a critical mass of the population will be vaccinated by October. 

This may be the case, but the track record would leave a casual observer sceptical on that timetable.

There will need to be a fix to the access to and distribution of the vaccine for this to be achieved.

Every week there is a delay in the vaccination roll out is a week that the economy is not returning to full employment.

People are vulnerable to an outbreak of a COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses are vulnerable to disruption of in a worst case, lockdowns. 

It risks interstate borders being shut, new restrictions being imposed and the economy relapsing to a period of weakness.

The vaccine needs to be given to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Many other countries have given 8, 10, 15 or 20 per cent or more of the population the vaccine.

The Government needs to implement a strategy that sees Australia close this gap.

Failure to do so risks a reversal of what has been a run of good economic news.

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Image: Yahoo Finance
: Yahoo Finance