Scott Morrison pledged to have the country vaccinated by October, starting with four million by March 31. He’s since changed both targets.
At the start of the year, Scott Morrison set the organs of Australia’s health system a pure marketing challenge. The entire population would be vaccinated by October. Doing some quick maths, and that’d mean twenty million people would receive two doses in eight months. The first marker of success, per Scott Morrison, would be 4 million Australians vaccinated by March 31.
So far, we’ve managed to vaccinate 600,000, which is about 15% of the original target. In response, the government has moved the goalposts, stating that they’ll now reach that mark by the end of April. We’ll also no longer be fully vaccinated by October.
However, to meet that target, we’ll have to vaccinate 121,400 a day.
As we reported in February, “Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested the rollout capacity will start at around 80,000 doses per week and increase from there. That’s 16,000 a day (over five-day weeks), well short of the required 200,000 a day. The planned peak capacity hasn’t been announced, but even back-of-the-beer-mat calculation would suggest a minimum of 167,000 vaccines per day to give two doses each to 20 million Australians in the eight months between March and October 2021. The longer it takes to reach such capacity, the higher that daily number will get — or we will not reach the target vaccination percentage this year.”
An unrealistic target is one factor, but the rollout has also been impacted by circumstance. Beyond the international supply issues, they have been errors, booking issues, and a general vagueness around who gets what when. Indeed, doctors told publications that they were beating their heads “against a wall” due to issues with the rollout’s implementation.
This week was punctuated by two clusters in Queensland, purportedly spread by unvaccinated health workers. As it stands, Queensland is now experiencing a three-day lockdown, with the known cases up to 15.
Despite all this, Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, is hopeful. In conversation with The Guardian, she said that the numbers will grow “exponentially” as our rollout has been anything but “usual”.
In February, a group of UNSW researchers offered a different take. “It seems clear that to deliver at the scale needed to meet government targets won’t be possible through GPs and pharmacies alone. What’s needed are mass vaccination sites as proposed in the 2018 NSW Health Influenza Pandemic Plan. In a dedicated centre, trained nurses could vaccinate at a rate of between 80-100 people per hour. A similar approach in the UK has seen conference centres, sports stadiums, churches and mosques all co-opted as mass vaccination hubs, to great effect,” they noted.