Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Criticism of Morrison Government's "overhyped and underdelivered" national COVID-19 vaccination program continues


news.com.au, 5 April 2021:

Yesterday, four million Americans received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the country continues to rapidly accelerate its rollout.

By comparison, that’s the same number of Australians who were meant to have gotten a jab by the end of March … a target that the Government fell short of by 3.4 million people.

Just two per cent of Australians have received a jab so far, compared to 30 per cent of the US population and 46 per cent of people in the UK.

A number of frontline health workers, hotel quarantine workers and vulnerable aged care residents remain unvaccinated, despite the significant risks.

Supply from overseas has dwindled, distribution of what the country does hold has been marred by issues, communication between authorities and the GPs tasked with administering jabs is chaotic, and fury is growing, experts say.

Instead of seeking solutions, critics accuse Prime Minister Scott Morrison of being distracted by politics and a petty blame game while still insisting that all is going well despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

By the time the US, UK and major European Union nations were six weeks into their respective schemes, those countries had vaccinated several times more people.

When pressed on why the program began so late and has been plagued by so many issues, the Prime Minister has repeated his mantra: “It’s not a race.”

But this overly casual attitude is one of four major mistakes the Government has made, argues Stephen Duckett, director of the Grattan Institute’s health program, who describes the vaccine rollout as “overhyped and underdelivered”.....

Instead of four million Aussies getting a jab by last week as promised, the figure was just 600,000 and Health Minister Greg Hunt won’t say when everyone in the first groups will be vaccinated. 

That’s not to mention the second major group of intended recipients, covering some six million Australians, who were “encouraged to call their GP to organise a vaccination”, Mr Duckett said. 

“(Greg Hunt) made this announcement knowing Australia didn’t have enough vaccines to meet demand. 

“GPs hadn’t been warned of the impending tsunami of calls, nor did they know how many doses they would get and when. The Federal Government didn’t have a robust logistics system to ensure the right doses got to the right places at the right times. GPs were, rightly, extremely angry. 

“The logistics nightmares continue, with the Federal Government persistently failing to provide clarity about dose distribution to either states or GPs.” 

At a media conference yesterday, Mr Hunt couldn’t say when everyone in the first two groups – health workers, hotel quarantine staff and aged care residents – would get their first jabs. 

He also seemingly backed away from another of the Government’s major commitments – that every Aussie who wants a COVID-19 jab will have it by October. 

“As to the rate … that will depend simply on the supply,” Mr Hunt said when pressed on the timeline. 

“The supply at this stage is looking strong. We are in a very fortunate position given the global circumstances (and) with our (locally made AstraZeneca) production.” 

Those firm commitments are now a thing of the past, it seems....

For his part, Mr Duckett blames the Morrison administration’s tendency to prioritise political messaging for much of the confusion and unpreparedness. 

“The Federal Government has seen the vaccine rollout not as a public health program but as a political issue, complete with the Liberal Party logo on a vaccine announcement,” Mr Duckett wrote. 

“The focus has been on announcables and good news stories, with the glory to shine back on the Government in the lead-up to an election. 

“This focus has meant the Government’s initial priority was a rollout through GPs and, later, pharmacies. 

“Involvement of GPs was the right call – it’s good for doctors to provide a comprehensive range of services to their patients. But reliance on GPs was the mistake. 

“GP clinics rarely have the space for significant numbers of people waiting to be vaccinated and to be observed after being vaccinated. 

“Mass vaccination requires large centres such as sports venues and town halls.” 

While maintaining everything is fine, Mr Hunt and the PM have attempted to shift the blame to the states, who in turn have revealed staggering shortcomings on the part of federal authorities. 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard reacted with fury to criticism from the Federal Government, detailing instances when vaccine stock had not arrived when it was meant to, or arrived suddenly and without warning, akin to “dumping”. 

The Prime Minister’s office points out that it reset it’s end-of-March goal when the European Union blocked the export of millions of doses of vaccines. 

But even on its revised target, it still fell short by more than 1.2 million vaccinations....

Read the full article here

It is unfortunate that so few have been vaccinated to date, given that outbreaks of community-transmitted COVID-19 infection are still occurring. 

On 30 March 2021 Queensland Health announced that it had recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 that day, including six locally acquired cases. 

All six locally acquired cases were linked to a Brisbane nurse, who in turn could be linked back to the unvaccinated Princess Alexandra doctor who tested positive on 12 March 2021.

Three new cases linked to this cluster were announced on 3 April 2021.

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