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'Dead last': High cost of the COVID-19 vaccination failures

Australia's bungled vaccine rollout has major economic consequences. (Source: Getty)
Australia's bungled vaccine rollout has major economic consequences. (Source: Getty)

Australia has the lowest vaccination rate in the industrialised world.

We are dead last.

This is a dreadful outcome that is not only risking the health of the population, but as we are witnessing all too clearly, it is at risk of damaging the economy as lockdowns are imposed on a largely unvaccinated population in an effort to limit the spread of this deadly disease.

The lockdowns and economic damage are the result of Australia’s poor vaccination rate. As many other countries have a large and growing share of their people vaccinated, the restrictions are easing and their economies are booming.

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Vaccination rates are the key to opening up society and the economy, including international borders to tourists, business people and international students.

In simple terms, Australia is using lockdowns, not vaccinations, to control the spread of COVID-19.

This is the wrong way to do it.

The dismal vaccination rate the direct result of the Morrison Government gambling in 2020 with the procurement of vaccinations and relying heavily of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a small batch of the Pfizer and nothing much else.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did this, it seems, for cheap nationalistic reasons because the local pharmaceutical powerhouse, CSL, can and is making the AstraZeneca dosage here in Australia.

It seems gambling so heavily on a ‘buy Australian’ strategy for one vaccination has left the government with lots of vaccination doses which are unsuitable for everyone aged 60 years and less, and a scarcity of vaccinations appropriate for all age groups.

And just to repeat, a critical mass of all adults must be vaccinated if we are to live and cope with COVID-19.

The doubts about the efficacy of AstraZeneca has curtailed the enthusiasm for vaccinations for the whole population, further undermining the speed at which a critical mass of society is vaccinated. Those aged under 50 years are clearly very cautious and nervous given the risk, however slight, of blood clots.

Had the government procured vaccinations from a wider range of pharmaceutical companies, like every other industrial economy, Australians would have had a much earlier and extensive access to vaccinations for all adults.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Long queues of people are seen at the NSW Vaccination Centre in Homebush on July 01, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Much of Australia is in lockdown or subject to some form of restriction as community cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant continue to be recorded around Australia. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is available to frontline workers, people with pre-existing health conditions and people in their 40s and 50s, while the AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for people over 60. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced an indemnity scheme for general practitioners, saying anyone could receive AstraZeneca at a GP clinic despite vaccine advisory group ATAGI recommending Pfizer as the preferred vaccine for those under 60. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
Long queues of people are seen at the NSW Vaccination Centre in Homebush on July 01, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

With that, the risks of community spreading of COVID-19 and lockdowns, would be reduced.

Other countries diversified their purchase of vaccinations, which has seen the average ‘fully vaccinated’ rate at around 30 to 35 per cent of the population. Comparable data for Australia has us at just 5 per cent.

Indeed, the share of the population fully vaccinated is 60 per cent in Israel, over 50 per cent in Chile, Ireland and Hungary and just under 50 per cent in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Countries with between a quarter and one third of their population vaccinated include Sweden, Latvia, Slovakia, Canada, Estonia, France, Italy, the Netherland, Denmark, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Spain and Germany.

Speed it up – now!

The Australian government needs to get more vaccinations that are suitable for all ages.

While late to the party, it still needs to be done.

While Australia is well down the list in terms of getting those vaccinations as global production levels lag global demand, living with COVID-19 needs around 70 per cent or more of the adult population vaccinated to do this.

At the current pace of the roll out, this will not happen until well into 2022 or even 2023.

Until then, the economy will be subjected to business damaging lockdowns.

If we are to build of what was great economic news in the first half of 2021, getting unemployment to 5 per cent and probably lower, to get wages growth accelerating and business investing, we cannot have mass lockdowns each time COVID-19 breaks out.

The message remains – get vaccinated.

The government needs to step up and make sure there are enough doses to allow this to happen.

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