The vaccination rollout in Australia has appeared to me to be a debacle at all levels of government, where the technocrats ruling the states and the Commonwealth have all dropped the ball in various ways.
This was brought home to me particularly this morning when I looked more closely at the letter my elderly mother recently received from the Federal Health Department encouraging her to get vaccinated. Aside from the ineffectual health minister, it had two other signatures at the bottom, and struck me, on reading, as solely self-serving rather than actually giving constructive advice.
There were no links to web addresses where you could easily find local GPs or Chemists offering the COVID vaccine, nor a hotline which you could call.
Which strikes me as being yet another failing in the way that the vaccinations are being administered. After all, an elderly woman with or without limited English is going to have trouble standing in a queue at one of the public vaccination centres, and the ideal solution to find a local GP who (unlike her own) actually is offering the vaccine.
But this is not an isolated failing. Let’s take the Victorian Government’s vaccination hotline. When I called it 7 weeks ago to see whether I could book an appointment (this not being possible via the website), it offered me, after very many minutes of being on hold, the option of being called back. I did not get called back.
When a colleague rang it several weeks later to get his follow up vaccination shot of Pfizer, the script followed by the call centre agent falsely told him to wait a few more weeks in contradiction of the public advice on vaccination turnarounds for Pfizer. As it turned out, the state had run low on Pfizer supplies so it was discouraging people from trying to book appointments.
And then we have the mixed messaging about the risks of Astra Zeneca, especially through the equivocal and vacillating pronouncements by the Prime Minister and his various vaccine advisors (especially the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation). This has served to make people unnecessarily reluctant and hesitant, if not outright scared, about taking the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
Of course, whilst this is a rare marketing failure from ScoMo, it does not hold a candle to the messaging from the highly irresponsible Queensland Premier and her sidekick (and soon to be viceregal overseer) the Chief Health Officer, whose denunciations of the Astra Zeneca virus have verged on the downright tinfoil hat crazy.
Let’s face facts:
1. The sooner everyone is vaccinated, the sooner we are all a lot safer.
2. The risks from Astra Zeneca are very very very remote, particularly when put in the context of the risks from COVID. (So far 3 deaths from 4.5 million doses, compared to about 900 dead from COVID when we have no doses.)
3. Astra Zeneca may have some slightly higher risks (which are still remote) of serious side effects than Pfizer, but we will be waiting a while for enough supplies of Pfizer, whereas Astra Zeneca is easier to make and to store, which means we have it now.
The only intelligent voice in this entire matter is Dr Katie Allen, the Liberal MP for Higgins, who has recently spoken articulately about the comparative risks and shown rational judgement. If it were not that dumping dead weight ministers would be to show weakness and to possibly stir internal instability in the party room, the Prime Minister should dump missing-in-action health minister Greg Hunt and appoint Dr Allen in his place.
Which leads me to ‘Arm Yourself’, the new government vaccine campaign. Who came up with it? When I was first told about it this afternoon, I thought it was a joke by the Betoota Advocate or some similar satirical website.
I think ScoMo needs to channel his inner NSW Tourism Marketeer again, which gave us the ‘Australia: Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ ads with Lara Bingle in a bikini. Only this time, it could be ‘Vaccines” Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ (And I cannot take credit for this suggestion – it was one of my colleagues.)