EXPLAINER

Vaccine rollout: How Australia compares to the rest of the world

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images

While Australia was looked at by the world as the gold standard of COVID-19 containment, the same cannot be said for its vaccine rollout.

More than a month into the country's vaccine rollout, the schedule has been delayed, shifted and rewritten a number of times to deal with numerous obstacles.

But are we that far behind the rest of the world when it comes to vaccinating our population against the pandemic that's left three million dead in its wake? The answer is complex.

Where does Australia sit internationally with its vaccine rollout?

If you were to judge by the headlines, Australia's vaccine rollout isn't going so great.

The United States has fully vaccinated a quarter of its population, including 65 per cent of those over the age of 65.

Around 13 per cent of those in the United Kingdom have received both doses with nearly half the population having received the first dose.

Israel, the world's most vaccinated country right now, fully vaccinated more 50 per cent of its citizens.

Meanwhile, Australia has successfully delivered 1.5 million doses but data on who has received a second dosage is not yet available.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the national rollout in early April, despite later ditching the original schedule.

"It is true that at this stage of our rollout, it is actually better than where Germany was, better than where New Zealand was, better than where South Korea and Japan was," Mr Morrison said in April.

"I think there will be some important context in the weeks ahead as we see the significant ramp up of the distribution network."

Is he right? In some sense.

Vaccination delivery data, tracked on Our World in Data, shows Australia is around the middle of the pack when it comes to the daily number of vaccinations given per 100 people.

As of April 16, 2021, Australia is vaccinating 0.19 people per 100 - a figure that's relatively on par with our Asia-Pacific neighbours.

It's a figure that's lower than many European countries and the United States, which range between 0.5 and 1.

But National Party Deputy Leader David Littleproud said there was little use in comparing the country's progress to others.

"I don't think any Australian would want the Chinese vaccine or the Sputnik vaccine," Mr Littleproud told Nine.

"Australia has been calm and methodical about making sure that we give the best vaccine with confidence, and however long it takes, it takes."

Could Australia have done more?

It's easy to reduce the facts to a simple question - why didn't the government do more?

From the beginning, the government's ambitions were high. Mr Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt told the nation in January they expected four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March.

Later, it was promised all Australians would have their second doses by the end of October.

With supply chain issues and concerns rare blood clots were possible with the AstraZeneca vaccine, schedules were revised and promises re-drawn up.

But any schedule for rollout was all but ditched by the Prime Minister via a Facebook feed in mid-April.

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The concerns with AstraZeneca's blood clot issue has meant health authorities have hit pause on delivering it to Australians under the age of 50, setting back the 2021 timeline once more.

It's meant the government will now have to rely on upping orders on Pfizer and securing more supply with other vaccine options.

There's an argument, however, that Australia is not as in-need of a vaccine compared to other countries who have been hit harder by the deadly virus.

Closed borders and being relatively isolated from the northern hemisphere has resulted in Australia having a natural advantage for stopping its spread and preventing overwhelming outbreaks.

Nearby countries, such as Indonesia, are rolling out vaccines while facing thousands of daily cases.

Other countries, like China, are producing their own vaccines and achieving minimally higher rates of daily vaccination, according to Our World in Data's tracking.

Will Australians be allowed to travel before being vaccinated?

With vaccination rollouts steaming ahead in other countries, it's likely some will have fully vaccinated populations before the end of the year.

Mr Morrison has already floated the idea of fully vaccinated Australians being able to travel overseas without being forced into hotel quarantine.

"I see that as the sensible next step," Mr Morrison said on Friday.

"[Fully vaccinated Australians] would be able to go overseas, the proposal is, [and] come back to Australia and not have to go into hotel quarantine, but be able to do that in some form of home quarantine.

"As always we've been guided by the medical advice and that's the question we've put, and so let's wait for the medical advice before we can set any timetables for next steps."

But for those without a double dose of the vaccine, the rules will remain the same for now.

The question will also be for other countries with vaccinated populations as to whether unvaccinated Australians will be able to visit without restrictions.

For now, more questions remain than there are answers as the global rollout continues.

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This story How Australia's vaccine rollout fares globally first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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