The proportion of adults fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has jumped to 17.19 per cent, finally putting us ahead of New Zealand.
It only took lockdowns across multiple cities as well a major outbreak of the Delta strain to get there, but here we are. We have moved from last of the list of OECD nations on the proportion of adults fully vaccinated, to second last, now behind New Zealand. That’s something to celebrate.
Now, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who previously said the vaccine rollout is “not a race”, is urging Australians to go for gold.
Inspired by Wednesday’s gold medal run at the Olympics that saw Ariarne Titmus backing up her 400-metre freestyle win at the games to also take out the 200 metres, just after Australia won gold medals in both the men’s and women’s rowing coxless four, Morrison deployed the gold medal analogy.
“All of Australia, like our Olympians, we go for gold on getting those vaccination rates where we need to go,” Morrison said during a press conference on Wednesday, just as NSW Premier Gladys Berekicklian announced Sydney’s lockdown would be extending for another four weeks.
“Gold, Gold, Gold,” Morrison said, after ripping off his mask to speak with journalists.
“That’s what has happened today. It’s something for all Australians to celebrate, and I know that has really lifted our spirits.”
“The supply is there. The distribution is there. The pharmacists. The GPs. And we make a gold run all the way to the end of the year, and the sooner we get there, the sooner we get there.”
Yes we do need to go for gold. If only it were that simple and if only we weren’t so far behind on almost all comparable competitors in the field. If only we had the infrastructure already in place to support young Australians especially in lining up to get the jab — rather than scrambling to make it happen now. If only we had mates in certain places, like possibly in big business and those with big real estate and carparking and facilities that could have already been repurposed to create vaccination hubs. If only those under 40 across the Greater Sydney area who are now trying to access the AstraZeneca vaccine didn’t have to wait until September to get an appointment as some such adults are already reporting.
Suggesting Australia will go for gold on vaccination is also particularly optimistic, given lingering vaccine hesitancy brought on by mixed messaging around safety. This optimism also fails to consider the anti-vax crowd and those attending anti-lockdown protests, including from Morrison’s own side of government and from commentators friendly to the Coalition.
But this latest line? Let’s give it credit for at least being something. Even if it flies in the face of Morrison’s previously repeated statement that vaccination is “not a race”.
We need to hear from the PM on vaccinations, constantly. We need messaging around vaccine safety. We need reminders to book appointments. We need to communicate the fact this can only end with getting huge numbers of Australian vaccinations. We also need to know exactly where the vaccines are, and how we can actually book appointments to get them in arms.
What we especially need is less politicizing around the issue. Far less bullshit around vaccine supplies the Morrison Government has allegedly secured and less pretending that it’s completely in the hands of individual Australians to just book an appointment and get vaccinated — when we know it’s much more difficult than that.
Last week, Morrison declared Australia had “turned a corner” on the vaccine rollout because his government has managed to secure 85 million Pfizer booster shots. The problem is the fine print, which showed these booster shots are arriving in 2022 and 2023. These booster shots will be needed, and on this one, it’s good to know we will actually have that supply next year. But these arrivals don’t change the situation now. They don’t help the pockets of Sydney that are desperately trying to get essential workers and young people vaccinated. They won’t help us reach vaccination goals by the end of the year.
Indeed, this announcement could actually harm this rollout. Clearly done for political purposes — the PM knows Australians love that Pfizer — it could see more Australians, particularly those currently in areas unaffected by COVID-19 outbreaks, deciding to wait until they can get this particular brand of the vaccine in their arms.
This “turned a corner” announcement was once again Morrison looking to make a quick announcement without for a minute thinking through the consequences.
It’s time for Morrison to go for gold on being straight and direct with Australians. Encourage us to get vaccinated, but tell us exactly how to do so, now.