It is time to pivot our national vaccination strategy?

The graph of national vaccinations tells an interesting picture.

At first glance, this looks pretty good. The reality is not so good.

Nationally, 20% of the population has received the first dose. That means they have about 50% protection. Better than nothing, but not great. But only 2% are fully vaccinated four months after the start of vaccination.

” It is not a race” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was first in line to be vaccinated on 26 Feb. He is now one of the 2% of Australians to be fully vaccinated

The World Health Organisation sets a benchmark of 65% for herd immunity. At our current rate of progress, we will need 30×4 months to get there. That’s 10 years. There are many races that take that long.

The problem is the national uptake of the second vaccine. We should be seeing some pickup in fully vaccinated numbers, but we are not. Whether this is through complacency or through some hesitancy is not known.

The situation in Victoria is equally worrying.

This graph shows two developments.

The first was a huge surge in vaccinations in June in response to Victoria’s fourth lockdown. People realised this was serious.

The second, shown in the black circle, is a falloff when the lockdown restrictions were an immediate and dramatic falloff in vaccinations with the easing of lockdown restrictions. It’s a very worrying development, particularly if it continues.

So what’s the answer?

It depends on how you see the problem.

The first part of the problem is that we have a two jab vaccination strategy. One of those vaccines is being manufactured overseas and supply of both vaccines appears problematic.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vaccination centres are standing empty and walk-up clients are being turned away. It’s ironic that eligible age cohorts are staying away in droves, while younger people are being turned away.

So it might be a good idea to switch suppliers to include a one jab vaccine: the Johnson & Johnson and to seek to manufacture it in Australia. But, until we can do that, we should import as much as we can to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated.

Significant proportions of the population appear reticent to have a first jab and it would appear that an even larger proportion are reticent to have a second.

The government needs to start considering incentives for vaccination. The easing of travel restrictions for those who have had two vaccinations. 

Tax cuts? We hand out tax cuts to everybody. Why not make them dependent on some form of behavioural change? One-off incentive payments?

Until Australia can get vaccination coverage well in advance of its current rates, it will remain at risk of widespread outbreaks and/or lockdowns.

The political, social and economic consequences of this will be devastating.

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