‘Not good enough’: Australia falling behind the world

A public health expert has sounded the warning bells for Australia over the nation’s anticipated COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The government’s plan to vaccinate 4 million Australians by the end of March has fallen short, with under a quarter of the target being met. As of Sunday, just 398,000 Australians have been given the jab.

Speaking to TODAY, Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell, from the University of NSW, said Australia’s roll out was well behind schedule, even compared to developing nations.

“Yesterday in the United States in one day 3.4 million doses were administered. That‘s getting on for about the entire adult population of Australia every week,” he told the program.

“Developing countries like Bangladesh, Rwanda, Senegal all of whom have much worse societal problems than we do are ahead of us.”

However, Australia’s COVID crisis has been all but contained, with just 151 active cases and two locally acquired cases in the past week.

There have been 29,252 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to the US where almost 10 per cent of their population have tested positive over the past year, passing a whopping 30 million confirmed cases – 7 million of which are still active – this month.

But Professor Bowtell said the federal government’s vaccine delay is still cause for concern and should be at the top of Scott Morrison’s priority list.

“We have to ask some very serious questions about why we are falling behind, we have got to correct those problems with a laser-like focus from the prime minister and the government,” he said.

Professor Bowtell said regional areas of NSW such as Port Stephens were “geared up already to receive 5000 doses a week” but haven’t been able to meet targets on account of poor planning and procurement.

“What they got last week was 50. Now, that‘s just not good enough,” he said.

“The doctors, the GPs, the pharmacies, all ready to go, but they are being let down by a failure to commit to targets, to plan and to deliver. So we have to do better with procurement.”

Australia has begun distributing its own AstraZeneca vaccine after The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the first four batches containing 832,000 doses for supply across the country.

Once manufacturing reaches capacity, CSL will be able to manufacture one million doses a week.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia was also looking at the possibility of using contractors to further increase the number of locally made doses.

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