Morrison Says All Australians Can Get Vaccine Jab This Year
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a deal with Pfizer Inc., which will see millions of coronavirus vaccine doses delivered ahead of previous schedules, will mean every Australian will be offered at least one jab by year-end.
Pfizer will deliver about 1 million doses a week from July 19, more than double the weekly average of about 350,000 in June. Australia now expects to receive 2.8 million Pfizer jabs this month and more than 4.5 million in August, a spokesperson for Morrison said. The race is on to boost inoculations as Sydney’s delta outbreak intensifies, leading to new restrictions announced on Friday.
“We’ve been working on this for some time to get those brought forward,” Morrison said in a separate Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview on Friday. “We really are hitting the marks we now need to hit. We’ve done a lot of catch up over the month of June.”
Covid-Hero Australia Now Vaccine Laggard as Lockdowns Bite
A ramp-up in supply would be welcomed by Australians growing weary of the country’s tardy vaccine rollout, which so far has seen just 26% of the population of about 26 million people get their first jab. Supply-chain hold-ups from contracted drug-makers have been among the setbacks, along with increased vaccine hesitancy due to concerns about rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca Plc product.
That forced Morrison to abandon an early target for full vaccination by October. Until Morrison’s latest announcement, the government had indicated a slow rollout would mean the nation may need to remain isolated well into 2022.
While Australia’s tough border restrictions have helped the country to avoid the waves of death and illness that last year wracked the U.S. and Europe, there’s been increased concern that the nation is ill-equipped to keep more virulent strains such as the delta variant out of local communities.
Just over a week ago, outbreaks forced half of the nation’s population into stay-at-home restrictions, while Sydney is in the midst of a lockdown that will last at least three weeks.
After recording 44 new daily cases on Friday, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian signaled that unless the outbreak is quickly brought under control, Sydney’s lockdown will need to stay in place beyond July 16. She announced stricter social-distancing measures for the city of 6 million people, including banning household visits and allowing only 10 people at funerals.
“We look at countries that are opening up, living freely with Covid and the delta strain, they are able to do that because half of the population is vaccinated,” she told reporters in Sydney. “We are nowhere near that yet.”
Sydney’s Delta Outbreak Reaches Record High Despite Lockdown
The tighter restrictions announced Friday may suggest Sydney is heading toward a deeper and longer lockdown, though the experience in Australia and elsewhere in the world has been that the hit to activity, confidence and employment “is temporary and all tend to recover once restrictions are lifted,” said Su-Lin Ong, head of Australian economic and fixed-income strategy at Royal Bank of Canada.
“It is a setback to growth, but unlikely to derail the expansion,” she said. “The question is whether the bounce-back takes a bit longer or is more subdued given less fiscal support and the uncertainty of further possible lockdowns until vaccination rates are much higher. Third-quarter growth could be a bit weaker depending on how long this goes for.”
Morrison on Friday ruled out more immediate financial support for businesses in Sydney. “As long as we can get on top of this in a reasonable period of time, then we anticipate that the economic impacts of this can be mitigated,” he told reporters.
Alongside other so-called “Covid-zero” nations, such as China and Singapore, the persistent outbreaks show the limits of Australia’s strategy to beat the pandemic with closed international borders and rigorous testing. The Labor opposition says the delta variant is responsible for more than 20 virus leaks out of the nation’s quarantine hotels, with cases also linked to mineworkers and airline crew who have traveled around the nation.
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