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As we make our way into the 18th month of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is beginning to see an end in sight. With more than 10 pharmaceutical companies currently in the process of manufacturing vaccines or working towards approval, there is hope that normal (pre-2020) life will soon begin again. Countries across the globe have jumped at the opportunity to begin securing vaccines to protect their citizens from the deadly virus. There are, however, countries where the prospect of mass vaccinations seems unlikely in the near future, with one of these being coronavirus-fighting superstar, Australia.
Throughout the pandemic, Australia has managed to hold a relatively stable position and the health of its citizens has remained largely unaffected in comparison to the rest of the world. Since the first case in late January 2020, the country with over 25 million people saw only 30 021 cases of the virus and had 29 deaths per million people as opposed to a global average of 114 deaths per million. The question that follows is how did Australia manage to be in such a fortunate position?
A key step in Australia’s Covid-19 response was to act quickly, something that was done on both a federal and local level when implementing social restrictions in response to signs of case spikes. While the country experienced a handful of snap lockdowns over the past year and a half, they lasted for only a few days at a time and Australians have had the luxury of carrying on with life almost as normal for the past year. With domestic travel booming in the country and bars and restaurants operating at full capacity, living in Australia has been a breeze throughout the majority of the pandemic. The only hindering factor being that Australia still has closed borders (except with New Zealand, thanks to a new Trans-Tasman bubble) and Australians are beginning to feel anxious to travel. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australians that travel may be a pipe dream at the moment and that mass vaccinations need to occur within the country before leisure-based international travel can happen. However, there is very little push and no urgency on behalf of the Federal Government to get the country vaccinated soon.
In early 2020, the Australian Government secured a limited number of Pfizer vaccines, but purchased a large amount of AstraZeneca doses to be manufactured in the country and to be distributed through a prioritization and phasing system. Many Australians found hope in this but doubts began to set in when blood clotting was seen by a fractional number of AstraZeneca recipients. This caused citizens to become wary of the vaccine with no immediate urgency to get it because of the low risk that Covid-19 currently poses in the country. Subsequently, the federal target for vaccines administered by the end of March was 4 million, but there was a far miss with only 3.6 million doses dispensed in Australia by mid-May, resulting in a per capita number much lower than other states.
The Federal Government is remaining ignorant to this problem, insisting that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe but citizens are not convinced and many are holding out on getting vaccinated. This is a massive problem for Australia and its ability to protect itself from the virus as we return to a more globalized reality. Fortunately, the Morrison Government has started to hear the concerns of Australians and has recently secured 2 million Pfizer doses per week starting October 1st, allowing all Australians to make a choice on their preferred vaccines. But will this be enough to get Australia widely vaccinated or will the country still have a vaccination rate that is dismissible compared to other countries? It is hard to know the answer to this question and only time will tell, but one can hope that the Federal Government has made the right choice to purchase more Pfizer doses and that they did so in time. One can only wait in hope for the outcome with the ambition for Australia to remain at an advantage in fighting the coronavirus.