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‘Held back’: Richard Branson slams Australia’s vaccine rollout

·2-min read
Left: Image of Richard Branson; right: Scott Morrison
Richard Branson, Virgin founder, has criticised Australia's slow vaccine rollout. (Source: Today/Getty)

Australia’s delayed vaccine roll-out has attracted the criticism of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, who said the country risked being left behind if it did not speed up vaccinations.

“It should be the number one priority of the Government. Nothing else matters more,” he told the Today show on Monday.

As a “small country,” “most” people in Australia ought to be vaccinated by now, Branson added.

He pointed to the UK and the US, two world leaders in the number of total doses administered, as examples of economies that were opening up “right away”.

The UK has issued 37.7 million vaccine doses with 22 million people fully vaccinated, while the US has fully vaccinated at least 129 million people, or nearly 40 per cent of the population.

Failing to vaccinate the population would risk business and economic growth, Branson warned.

“Because every single business in Australia will be held back. Every single person in Australia will be held back. The economy will suffer," he said.

Meanwhile, Australia has issued only 3.56 million vaccine doses, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison coming under fire from health experts for missing initial rollout deadline by months, which risks undermining public confidence, experts warn.

"If we look like we're slow, if we look like we are taking our time, if we look like we don't really know how well we are doing against our performance expectations … would that fill me with confidence as a citizen? Absolutely not," Doherty Institute Professor Terry Nolan told ABC.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday said Australia will have 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine every week starting from October, with hopes that all Aussies who want to get the jab can be vaccinated by Christmas.

But borders aren’t expected to open until mid-2022, and business leaders have protested at the lack of a clear roadmap for reopening.

The closed borders have also been costly in more than one way, draining the economy of billions of dollars every day, but also resulting in worsened mental health issues and personal pain for many.

Jane Halton, who ran the Commonwealth health department for more than a decade, has concerns that vaccine procurement is too slow.

"Have we moved fast enough? Well, I think all of us would like to be in a position where we can open our borders and be confident right now. And that's not where we're at," Halton said.

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