Vaccinations behind schedule, yet Aussies implored to 'take a holiday'

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COVID vaccinations have long been trumpeted as the key to getting the country back to some sort of normal and with the rollout gathering pace, the tourism minister is imploring all Australians to “take a holiday”. So is the rollout gathering pace as planned?

The ABC reports that the government is “drastically behind” in its vaccination target, delivering just half of the expected number of jabs by the end of last week.

Only 33,702 doses had been administered across the country, according to figures from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – a long way short of the government’s goal of “at least 60,000 [doses] … by the end of February”. And that was despite federal health minister Greg Hunt declaring Australia was “fully on track”.

Furthest behind were Queensland and Victoria, which had hit only 22 per cent and 30 per cent of their allocations respectively. Tasmania was top of the class, delivering virtually its entire allocation, followed by the ACT (84 per cent) and NSW (74 per cent). The Northern Territory had delivered 64 per cent, Western Australia 62 per cent and South Australia 35 per cent.

Read more: Government unit to bust vaccine myths

The federal government target to start the rollout was 80,000 doses a week, or about 11,500 a day, to vaccinate all adults (about 20 million people) by the end of October.

So far, states and territories are yet to administer 10,000 doses in a day.

To find out when you might receive a vaccine, the government has launched an online Vaccine Eligibility Checker tool that defines when different Australians can receive their shot.

The tool asks a series of questions about your employment status and living situation before broadly grouping you into one of the rollout’s designated phases.

The aim is ‘herd immunity’, which is when enough people are immunised to stop or slow the spread of the disease. The threshold for COVID is unknown but is estimated to be between 60 and 90 per cent of the population immunised. The threshold for measles is about 95 per cent of the population and for polio, about 80 per cent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the first AstraZeneca vaccines, which arrived in Australia on Sunday, had been “batch tested”, approved for use and distributed to the states. They would be administered in South Australia from Friday.

Read more: Can I choose which vaccine I get?

This week the federal government extended the international border closure by another three months – until June – blaming the more highly transmissible strains that had emerged overseas.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) briefed the government earlier this week on a tourism revival timetable that would see all interstate borders lifted by August at the latest. See current guidelines here.

Tourism minister Dan Tehan told the Destination Australia conference in Sydney on Thursday that all Australians should do their “patriotic duty” and take a holiday within Australia this year.

“We need Australians to take a holiday because every dollar spent on a holiday is a dollar that supports someone’s job, someone’s business and our tourism industry,” he said.

Read more: Do you need to register for a vaccine?

“I understand the frustration with decisions being taken by state governments that are directly impacting on people’s livelihoods.

“To get the tourism sector across that bridge and to the other side of this pandemic is going to take a Team Australia effort.

“That means support from the federal government (and) a more consistent … ‘shut down as a last option’ approach from state governments.”

Under a Business Council of Australia plan, when the earliest phases of the vaccine rollout are complete, including vaccinating younger adults with underlying conditions, critical and high-risk workers and the elderly, domestic borders would be kept permanently open – making it safe it pack up, head interstate and share the love.

Are you ready to do your “patriotic duty”? Have you checked the Vaccine Eligibility Checker to see when you might be able to be vaccinated?

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Written by Janelle Ward



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