Why is Covid-19 vaccination lagging?

Australia and New Zealand have led the world in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Yet Australia is lagging most developed countries in vaccination.

What’s gone wrong?

It seems that there were some factors beyond the government’s control, but also that the government has not managed the vaccine rollout well. Sensational reporting by the media and inflammatory comments by pundits with no medical expertise (including Craig Kelly MP) have helped make many Aussies wary of vaccination.

I’m not a medical professional and I didn’t really understand viruses and vaccines, so I checked out the best sources. If that’s you too, you may want to read my summary at Viruses and vaccinations.

The medical advice is clear

We all know by now that Covid-19 is very infectious, and requires a careful response by governments, businesses and citizens.

  1. Masks, hand-washing, social distancing and careful recording of places we visit, are all necessary to slow virus spread and identify risks.
  2. Extensive vaccination will make us all much less susceptible to contracting and spreading the coronavirus, and will reduce the risk of hospitalisation.
  3. Unauthorised medications are far less useful, and may actually be harmful. They are best left alone.

Between idea and reality ….

That’s the plan. And Australia did exceptionally well at step 1. But steps 2 & 3 haven’t gone so well.

Only 7.6% of Australians have been fully vaccinated, lower than the world average of 12%, and well below countries like UK (50%), USA (47%) and Germany (39%). This slow vaccination rate will delay our return to more “normal” life.

What’s gone wrong

Experts identify a number of problems.

Vaccine availability

Vaccines aren’t always easy to source from overseas, and some shipments have been blocked by European countries wanting to ensure their citizens are vaccinated first.

Insufficient orders

The government favoured vaccines that could be produced in Australia, which is why AstraZeneca is so readily available. But this apparently led the government to not proceed with some overseas orders that might have made a difference now.

Poor distribution

The states and GPs have complained that the Australian government’s distribution program has been patchy, and vaccines aren’t always available when needed.

Poor messaging

The uncertainty around the AstraZeneca vaccine’s safety, and the differing statements by the Prime Minister, the state Premiers, and the health officials, have caused confusion and uncertainty in many people.

Sensational media reporting

The media thrives on conflict and finding the more sensational angle to a story, and this pandemic has been no exception.

Some parts of the media, especially those who seem happy to instigate or repeat right wing conspiracy theories, have reported the Covid-19 pandemic and the vaccine rollout in ways that increase uncertainty about the facts.

Inflammatory comments

Negative comments, conspiracy theories, statements not based on reliable medical evidence and unjustified accusations against public figures, have been rife throughout this pandemic.

Especially reprehensible have been ill-informed statements from Craig Kelly MP. For example, this flippant and inaccurate comment was published recently.

Inferring that the coronavirus is a “phony crisis” is irresponsible nonsense and undermines the government’s efforts to make Australians safe.

“Vaccine hesitancy”

As a result, many Australian people have lost confidence in the government, its management of the vaccination rollout and its advice. Many have been more hesitant to be vaccinated than you might otherwise expect.

As a result, Australia will be slower to return to the new normal. This will have an enormous economic cost, especially on small businesses and the self employed.

The Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, bears some responsibility for this.

Getting the balance right

Life always involves risk management. Every human activity involves some risk, and sensible people balance the risk with the benefits.

So management of this pandemic has also required risk management, balancing the economic and human costs of lockdowns with the cost of death and sickness if Covid-19 was allowed to run.

The Australian governments have mostly been admirably cautious, and saved many lives as a result. (Australia has gone almost six months without a Covid death.) Had the advice of the less cautious and the less humane been followed, it could have been very different.

It could still be very different if we are not careful.

Read more, get the basic facts

Check out Viruses and vaccinations for a brief rundown.

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