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How to get Australia vaccinated against COVID-19

Australia's COVID-19 vaccination rate has been painfully slow. Source: Getty/Yahoo Finance
Australia's COVID-19 vaccination rate has been painfully slow. Source: Getty/Yahoo Finance

In an ideal world, 100 per cent of the population would be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Unfortunately, this will not happen but we should aim high and do all we can to get as many people as possible vaccinated.

The higher the vaccination rate, the better will be the health and economic outcomes. Ultimately, lockdowns will be a thing of the past and we will probably be able to get on a plane, with a mask to be sure, and travel.

The vaccination roll out in Australia has been dreadfully slow. We remain near last among industrialised countries in terms of vaccination rates and this is costing lives, it is forcing huge areas of the country to be locked down, business closures, job losses which will all show up in a second recession in two years.

This absence of a diverse and plentiful supply of vaccines is the problem, made more problematic by vaccine hesitancy and vaccine refusal by a small proportion of the population.

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The government has assured us that the shortage problem is being addressed and in the months ahead as tens of millions of vaccinations are imported. This will ensure there is plentiful supply which means everyone will have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by late 2021 or early 2022.

For health and economic reasons, it is clear that aside from the tiny proportion of the population who cannot be vaccinated due to pre-existing health conditions, everyone else must get vaccinated.

While it is debatable whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be compulsory, getting as many people vaccinated as possible may require incentives to get those reluctant folk to get the jab.

A vaccination passport – what is it?

One obvious incentive for people to get vaccinated in a so-called passport.

In broad terms, it could work in the following way.

While COVID-19 vaccination would not compulsory, without this passport which shows that you have been fully vaccinated, you cannot go interstate or internationally on a flight. You cannot gain entry to a cafe, club or restaurant without proof of full vaccination. Going to a sporting event, a gallery, opera or concert would also require all attendees to be vaccinated. The list can be worked on and a transition plan worked out.

With such a plan, a COVID-19 vaccination is not compulsory, but you cannot do a range of things that threaten the health of others if you aren’t.

In addition, as is the case with smokers who are charged more than non-smokers for their health insurance, those without a COVID-19 vaccination would have to pay a higher premium than those with a vaccination.

These are not harsh measures.

After all, you cannot drive a car without a licence because your lack of driving skills risk the lives of others.

You cannot smoke in a public place because your exhaled smoke will harm others.

You need a licence to be a commercial pilot, for what should be obvious reasons.

You cannot travel internationally without a passport.

People with HIV or Aids have, in the past, been jailed for knowingly or recklessly passing on the illness to others.

The rules surrounding a passport in such troubled times are not all that controversial and are examples of how the good application of rules and regulations help society to function safely.

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What about COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic is a one in one hundred year event.

Millions of people around the world have died. Hundreds of millions of people have been infected by it. The long run effects of having the illness are unknown, but there is growing evidence that one’s health is compromised even when you get better.

It is a global and nationwide concern. It continues to impact on businesses, jobs and livelihoods. In an ideal world, where everyone is vaccinated, these problems would be largely overcome.

Vaccination reluctance

In Australia, when everyone is fully vaccinated new cases of COVID-19 will be low. The economy can open up and economic policy can focus on important things like getting to full employment, education and skills, environmental issues, equality and budget repair, among a long list of issues largely on the back burner while policy makers are dealing with the pandemic.

Alas, polls show that around one quarter of the population is reluctant to get vaccinated. Around one in ten say they will never get vaccinated.

A COVID-19 vaccination passport may provide them with the incentive to get vaccine.

Marketing too may help.

There could be a mass and varied marketing campaign may encourage those reluctant to get vaccinated to change their minds. If advertising works for toothpaste and laxatives, it would surely be effective for life saving vaccinations.

The fabulous Olympians can be engaged in such a campaign. Get high profile leaders, even celebrities, from cultural and linguistically diverse background to target specific cohorts of the population. Have a dozen campaigns running simultaneously.

The authorities need to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated. It should look at proven means and some less conventional ones too to ensure that people step up and get vaccinated when the supplies eventually arrive.

Full vaccination is the best solution to the current economic and health crisis. That should be the goal of all arms of public policy.

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