PM needs a shot of reality on vaccine rollout failure

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

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Scott Morrison has had his two shots of the Pfizer jab, but when it comes to the vaccine rollout a shot of reality is also desperately needed.

Despite the slow pace of the rollout which forced the government to completely abandon all targets, Mr Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and the federal government continue to pretend everything is hunky dory with the bungled program.

“I’m just simply doing everything we can to save lives and livelihoods,” he said this week.

“It had its challenges on the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the medical advice, and we’ve responded to that and we’ve ramped up the vaccination program.”

The PM is loath to admit uncomfortable truths. Source: AAP
The PM is loath to admit uncomfortable truths. Source: AAP

Mr Hunt, who has come under fire for reportedly turning down an early offer of 40 million Pfizer doses in July last year, keeps saying the rollout it “on track”.

On Friday he touted the program hitting 7 million jabs since it began in February. The US currently does about the same amount of doses in a single week. An unfair comparison, but one that nonetheless provides some perspective. 

On Thursday night, Coalition senator Hollie Hughes appeared on Q&A (from isolation) and unedifyingly defended the rollout by wrongly claiming the government didn’t actually know how many people were fully vaccinated.

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If the rollout is on track, why are members of the government having to falsely claim ignorance rather than face the numbers?

When it comes to the OECD, Australia has the lowest percentage of its population fully vaccinated at just over 4 per cent. 

As his political opponents like to point out, that stands in stark contrast to Mr Morrison’s frequent boasts that Australia was at the front of the vaccine queue. It wasn’t true then, and it’s certainly not true now.

Australia is languishing badly when it comes to vaccinating its population against Covid-19. Source: Our World in Data
Australia is languishing badly when it comes to vaccinating its population against Covid-19. Source: Our World in Data

With local transmission this week in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and now the Northern Territory, the country – and the economy – is more vulnerable than it would otherwise be had the rollout gone according to plan. Not to mention there remains acute vulnerabilities like the fact that two-thirds of staff in aged care homes remain unvaccinated

It's not all the federal government's fault, but the reality distortion it insists on maintaining helps no one. The states which stepped in to help rescue the rollout continue to complain about inconsistent and unreliable supply from the Commonwealth. 

'A case study of public policy failure'

This week the editorial board of the The Australian, which is usually an unflinching cheerleader of the conservative Coalition, delivered a rare admonishment over the government's ongoing denial of reality. 

"The federal government is losing credibility with its management of the vaccine rollout and its repeated claims that everything is on track," it wrote.

A pair of academics writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday were less kind. 

"Australia can no longer boast about our world-leading response to the pandemic. Because it’s no longer world-leading," they said.

"In future years, it’s likely that Australia’s vaccine rollout will be taught as a case study of public policy failure."

On track. Getting on with business. Look over there. 

Morrison proudly holds a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer recommended for people under 60. Source: Getty
Morrison proudly holds a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer recommended for people under 60. Source: Getty

The man pejoratively known online as "Scotty from Marketing" has never seen a problem he didn't think could be tackled with a snappy slogan. 

Remember how the CovidSafe app was "sunscreen" against the coronavirus? But then it wasn't. It didn't work properly and taxpayers spent millions on a dud which played almost no useful role in contact tracing efforts by the states. 

So now instead of targets, we have "Covid Vaccination Allocation Horizons" for when we vaccines might be available in more meaningful numbers.

Whatever semantic gymnastics the federal government insists on spewing, none of it detracts from the threat of rolling lockdowns facing us for the foreseeable future as the Delta coronavirus variant continues to leak from the country's piecemeal hotel quarantine system. 

At the very least, when it comes to the vaccine rollout, some honesty should be injected into the conversation.

Australians aren't stupid. Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt should stop treating them as such.

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