Vaccinations for COVID-19 are as much about the health of the population as they are about getting the economy back on its feet so that businesses can open up, jobs can be regained and society can embark on a new normal in how we function and live together.
Without the widespread and effective vaccination of the bulk of the population, there will be next to zero international tourism, nearly no foreign students to attend our universities and the parts of the economy that rely on crowds and tightly packed groups of people will remain closed or very weak. Think arts, entertainment, sporting events and even clubs, pubs and bars.
In 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised that Australia would be “at the front of the queue” when it came to getting our citizens vaccinated for COVID-19.
This was an obvious thing to say and a worthy commitment for health and economic reasons. Any leader of any political persuasion would have said much the same thing.
Good leaders would have put in place the strategy to make sure it happened and didn’t turn out to be a meaningless and unfulfilled announcement. They would have made sure Australians were at the front of the queue.
At the moment, no Australians have been vaccinated.
The Government recently announced that the first shots would be administered around late February or even early March, some four or five weeks from now.
As anyone who has been in lockdown, hotel quarantine or stopped from visiting loved ones knows, this is a long time.
While the Australian Government flounders, data collected by Bloomberg confirms that 56 countries have begun to roll out vaccinations to their citizens. Over 68.1 million people have started their vaccination programme and so far, there have been no material problems or side effects from the roll out.
This is because the pharmaceutical companies and health authorities around the world have tested, checked and validated the efficacy of the vaccinations they are giving. While the roll out has been quick, it has not been haphazard.
The Government has said its go-slow on the vaccination roll out is because of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has had to be sure the vaccinations met Australian standards.
At one level, this is understood. Prudent even.
At another, it begs a question what the government has been doing to approve the vaccinations for Australians when the rest of the world has tested, checked and cleared vaccinations for its citizens.
The Government has slipped up by limiting its range of vaccination providers. In at least 56 other countries, administrations have cast their net widely to ensure one or other of the credible vaccinations were available as soon as practicable. And they are yielding the benefits for this proactive approach.
Other than sloppy administration by the government, it is not clear why Australia has gone from the front of the queue to near the back of the queue.
Of course, no one would want the COVID-19 experience of the US or UK or much of Europe where the vaccinations are being rolled out at a rapid rate. It is obvious why there is a strategy to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible when the infection and death rates have been so horrendously high.
But that is not the point for Australia.
Just because Australia has had low levels of cases and deaths from COVID-19, it doesn’t mean we need to be slack in the speed and breadth of our vaccination roll out. There is no connection between the UK vaccination strategy and Australia’s and it is wrong to suggest there is one.
Indeed, the overseas experience tells us how bad things can be if the virus spreads.
It is vital that there is a speedy and widespread roll out of the vaccination program in Australia. Only then, will there be an opportunity for a smooth functioning of society and an opening up of the economy.
Jobs will come back at an even greater rate, businesses will expand and society will be better for it.
All of which goes back to the serious questions why the government has been slow to get the vaccinations into Australia.
It is a delay that is costing jobs and slowing down the economic recovery.