The ‘selfish’ decision that will keep a vaccinated Australia shut off from the world

·News Reporter
·5-min read

An expert in supply chains and logistics has warned a “selfish” decision regarding coronavirus vaccines could shut Australia off from the rest of the world.

The vaccine rollout has been a hot topic of conversation this week with many people frustrated and confused. It’s led to clashes between state and federal governments.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in, calling Australia’s vaccine rollout “a phenomenal failure”.

Nonetheless, the government on Friday outlined a four-phase plan for Australia to live with Covid which included vaccinations. The plan would eventually allow international travel.

Much has been made about Australia’s low vaccination rate, with calls for more vaccines.

Sydneysiders queue outside a vaccination centre in Sydney.
People queue for the jab in Sydney. Source: Getty Images

But Professor Ben Fahimnia, Chair in Decision Sciences at the University of Sydney, has warned there needs to be a global decision made on coronavirus vaccinations as Covid-19 "cannot be controlled” without one.

“Fifty per cent of the world’s Covid-19 vaccines are in the hands of 14 per cent of the world’s population,” he said.

“Exclusive and selfish distribution of vaccines in higher-income countries is not just inequitable, it is also irrational and inefficient.

“As the Delta variant has caused second, third and fourth waves of infection in vaccinated populations, no more can we ignore the fact that unvaccinated populations allow the development of viral mutations.”

A staff member holds a Pfizer vaccine prepared for clients at the St Vincent's Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic in Sydney, Australia.
A Pfizer vaccine at the St Vincent's Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic in Sydney. Source: Getty Images

Professor Fahimnia said Australia cannot open international and domestic borders until vaccines are available and affordable across the globe – particularly in lower-income countries with denser populations.

“The only solution is to manage the vaccination centrally at the global level,” he said.

“This means: higher-income countries join forces and scale-up vaccine production, central authorities reallocate vaccine supplies to areas of greatest need, and higher-income countries provide financial support to build the necessary logistics and infrastructure in more vulnerable regions to accelerate vaccination.

“Covid-19 is a global crisis and must be tackled at the global level.”

A woman walks past the vaccination centre signage in Sydney.
Australia's vaccine rollout has been labelled a failure so far. Source: Getty Images

'No country is safe' from Covid 'until all countries are safe'

Dr Fahimnia’s thoughts echo those of China’s top respiratory disease expert Dr Zhong Nanshan, who warned mass vaccination globally could take up to three years at a Science Council of Asia conference in May, the Global Times reported.

"No country is safe until all countries are safe," Dr Zhong said.

Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for Human Rights Watch, shared a map of Covid vaccine distribution published by The New York Times in April, which illustrated how poor countries are being left behind.

The map showed the US ahead of most other countries in vaccinating its population, with about 41 doses administered per 100 people.

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European countries are recording about 25 doses per 100 people.

However, it also showed many African countries and other developing nations falling behind with about 1.1 vaccinations per 100 people.

Mr Strohlein said it showed the current vaccine rollout “is hugely uneven”.

US coming up short on vaccine donations

US President Joe Biden has come up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed the pace of US vaccine diplomacy.

Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a share of the excess Covid-19 vaccine doses, the US has shipped less than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries, according to an Associated Press tally.

The White House says more will be sent in the coming days - with about 40 million doses expected to be shipped by the end of the week - and stresses that Biden has done everything in his power to meet the commitment.

President Joe Biden as he meets with the President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin in the Oval Office.
The US has only delivered 24 million of the 80 million Covid vaccines it was planning to donate. Source: Getty Images

It's not for lack of doses, with the White House saying all of the US shots are ready to ship.

Rather, it's taking more time than anticipated to sort through a complex web of legal requirements, health codes, customs clearances, cold-storage chains, language barriers and delivery programs.

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said all intended recipient countries had received formal US offers of a specific number and type of vaccine, and all legal and logistical hurdles on the US side had been cleared.

Hundreds of young people come to apply the dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination centre of the University of Baja California in Tijuana, Mexico.
People in Tijuana, Mexico come to apply the dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination centre of the University of Baja California. The vaccine was donated by the US. Source: Getty Images

"The remaining doses will be shipped in the coming weeks as countries complete their own domestic set of operational regulatory and legal processes. They're specific to each country," Mr Zients said on Thursday.

The White House declined to specify which countries were struggling with which local hurdles, saying it is working with recipient countries on an individual basis to remove obstacles to delivery.

Biden announced the 80 million target on May 17, saying: "This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date - five times more than any other country - more than Russia and China".

with The Associated Press

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