First in line for vaccines, but it’s not a race. Prime Minister cannot turn vaccines into weapons
(1984The hero of, Winston Smith, also spent a lot of time in his apartment, albeit without the comforts of Netflix or a sourdough starter.)
Time passed and while Australia praised the way it had handled the pandemic, other countries were quickly vaccinating their citizens with whatever they could take up. The triumphant vaccine landing in February has given way to the realization that we are the worst performing country in the OECD when it comes to full COVID-19 vaccination.
On February 28, the Minister of Health gave another press conference announcing the landing of doses of AstraZeneca in Australia. He also announced the launch of a “vaccine checker” – a website where you can see where you stand in the queue for priority vaccines (but it’s not a race).
This announcement was representative of how the vaccine rollout went – words to fill a press release, with little real-world application. A priority system means little when you run out of vaccines.
The same goes for the “National Transition Plan for Australia’s COVID National Response” released by Morrison early last week. It seemed like an announcement that at some point in the future, when an unknown number of people had been vaccinated, things might be normal.
For those around me, getting a vaccine has been such a hit and miss process, it’s surprising. Friends send each other web links with the instruction: “Try this one”.
People under 40 who want an AstraZeneca vaccine are exchanging information about the doctors who will put you in contact. Others under 40 have secured appointments for Pfizer doses, via a loophole. We don’t ask questions. It’s like trying to label drugs, but with more anxiety about blood clots.
Morrison corrected interviewers when they reminded him of low immunization rates – he likes to quote the higher number of people who received an injection.
The Prime Minister, who is locked in Kirribilli House, has been silent for several days last week as it became increasingly clear that Sydney was in serious trouble with its latest outbreak.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been explicit about the issue. “When you only get 9% of your community immunized, openness… means you would subject thousands and thousands of people to hospitalization and death,” she told reporters on Friday. “When we look at the world and we look at countries opening up, living freely with COVID and the Delta strain, they are able to do it because half the population is vaccinated.”
Morrison made a media blitz on Friday, after some outlets were informed, and duly signaled that Australia would be getting an “acceleration” in doses of Pfizer. “PM opens Pfizer’s floodgates,” the headline reads in the australian.
It looked like Australia had bought more vaccines. On closer inspection, it looked like the government might have been able to advance doses and direct them to Sydney.
A government spokesperson called it a “re-phasing” of the deployment, while noting that the 4.8 million doses promised for August could be “subject to change”. You didn’t have to put it under the microscope to see it was pure spin, but once Pfizer released a clarifying statement, the whole PR exercise was laid bare.
“The total number of 40 million doses that we have committed to deliver to Australia during 2021 has not changed,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to work closely with the government to support its deployment program. “
When things aren’t going well, Morrison often gets on the defensive – “I’m not holding a mate” – or uses offense as a form of defense. We saw this when he was embroiled in the “women’s crisis” (actually a crisis created by men). At a press conference earlier this year, Morrison launched a thinly veiled personal attack on the reporter who exposed Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape story, alluding to a bullying complaint he said had filed against a News Corp reporter.
On Friday, Morrison appeared to blame the Sydneysiders for failing to adhere to lockdown restrictions.
“We didn’t see the compliance that was needed,” he told Channel Seven. “The virus does not move on its own. It is moved by people moving the virus. “
That is true.
It’s also true: people don’t get vaccinated on their own. They need a government to coordinate it for them.
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