Friday, August 6, 2021

On Australia’s bungled vaccine rollout

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

The outrage at the Federal government’s mismanagement of the vaccine rollout and poor messaging is palpable.

In migrant communities, the discontent will only grow the longer travel restrictions and international border closures keep families apart. No guidelines are forthcoming on whether those in Australia who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel.

This is over and above the continuing hurt regarding the unfair travel bans implemented against Indian-Australians trapped in India for months now.

Adding to this is harsher targeting of certain communities in Sydney, while more affluent parts of the city go scot-free as they flaunt the rules.

Meanwhile, a much-delayed ad, which goes down best as scare-mongering, is not doing the government any favours, amid frustrations that are already high with the new advice of bringing forward the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This, as more and more older adults continue to find ‘eligibility’ for the ‘preferred’ Pfizer jab, leaving younger people at risk.

The unbelievably low rates of vaccination in Australia compared to other nations, especially OECD countries, is also cause for comment. In the early days of the pandemic, Australia relished its island nation status that gave it relative freedom from the virus. Politicians of all persuasions spoke up for a strong zero tolerance policy towards COVID-19, rather than discuss ways to prepare for a possible – or inevitable – outbreak.

empty sydney garden
NSW is looking at an extended lockdown

Vaccine management, an obvious strategy, was an important way out but the government bungled it by relying too much on a single manufacturer AstraZeneca, at the expense of other available options.

Though all of these decisions were made early in the days of the pandemic, prudence and farsightedness should have dictated a more diversified approach.

When the media began to report highly adverse effects of AstraZeneca, the government, seemingly in a state of paralysis, put out no concerted messaging to stand up for its choice of vaccine. There was no one pointing out the fact that the probability of these hostile reactions occurring were extremely low. Better messaging by the government in the early days of adverse media reports on the reaction to AZ could have quelled the doubts. The correct narrative at that time could have helped put things in perspective for the public.

Instead, rather than clarity, we saw conflicting messages from the Prime Minister, the Federal Health Minister and State Health officials. This did little to combat vaccine hesitancy, and probably turned off those vaccine-ready. With limited alternatives, a largely unvaccinated population blunders in and out of lockdowns.

READ ALSO: COVID vaccine: Q&A with Dr Vyom

scomo vaccine
PM Morrison on receiving the COVID vaccine. Source: Twitter

There will be much that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be praying for as he prepares to call an election in the next nine months. Top of the list will be, no cause for more lockdowns – not only to keep Australians safe, but also to keep him away from the wrath of the people.

He’ll also pray for the economy to show resilience against the pandemic – an increasing demand for iron ore from China, perhaps?  Going into an election cycle with a bursting hip pocket is a good way to retain the Prime Ministership.

And perhaps like his ‘good friend’ Narendra Modi, he will also pray that there is no change in the leadership of the Opposition. (The sound of ‘Prime Minister Albanese’, perhaps like that of ‘Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi’ might not exactly be the most engaging for either electorate.) And yet, closer to the election, when the ALP rolls out its policies, the voters may well change their minds.

To score this perfect trifecta may indeed need a fair bit of praying.

READ ALSO: Returning from India, emotionally and physically shattered

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Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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