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Victoria's lockdown 4.0 is shaking us awake, again. An overhaul is needed

A normally busy Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne sits empty on Friday. Picture: Getty Images
A normally busy Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne sits empty on Friday. Picture: Getty Images

The message is clear but it seems to get lost: the only one way to survive this COVID-19 nightmare is to vaccinate everyone who can get vaccinated.

You only have to look at India's tidal wave of cases to see a failed vaccine rollout for Australia would be a national catastrophe, so why are there so many roadblocks to success?

Some events such as overseas vaccine supply problems are largely out of the federal government's hands. But they beg the question: "Did Australia (read: the government) bet on the wrong suite of vaccine options?"

There are the adverse reactions to the AstraZeneca vaccine, a very small number of concerning cases of blood clots. They have led to changing health advice which pulled the most widely available vaccine as an option for most of the population.

Then we are told we are "hesitant", "complacent" and need the incentive of say, free Frequent Flyer points to get a jab.

It is clear the vaccination rollout for vulnerable groups, especially aged care residents and people with disabilities, has not been good enough. They were supposed to be prioritised but far too many have been left waiting.

Empty shelves in a Melbourne supermarket on Friday. Picture: Getty Images

Empty shelves in a Melbourne supermarket on Friday. Picture: Getty Images

Now with COVID-19 breathing down the necks of long-suffering Victorians, many who are eligible to get a jab can't get through on the phone to make a booking.

Victorian officials admit the booking system can't cope with the newly-expanded eligibility criteria for vaccinations. They are working on it. Meanwhile, word gets out on social media that the line at the main vaccine hub is not long and, perhaps, take a punt at snagging a spare Pfizer. Then the lines lengthen. Frustrations grow.

In the ACT, there are reports of, surprise, immediate booking spots if you are eligible, but also, anecdotally, other cases where eligible people have been told to wait. All aged care residents in the ACT have received first COVID-19 vaccination doses.

Some have had second doses. Victoria's lockdown 4.0 is shaking us awake, again. An overhaul is needed. There is room for a discussion about a waiting list for vaccines for those people who want it.

Few signs emerged on Friday of an imminent overhaul of Australia's COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly has written to the advisory group on immunisations, ATAGI, asking for more vaccine doses to be released.

ATAGI will meet next Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 vaccines. Despite a small number of adverse blood clot reactions, could age recommendations for the AstraZeneca vaccine be lowered below 50 years in light of the situation in Victoria?

Our nation's leaders want no vaccine dose to go to waste. How about the waste of an appointment time?

In the ACT, there are expectations the vaccine rollout will be sped up by making people aged 40 and over eligible for a vaccine.

The task of attaining herd immunity is ahead of us. Australia has just passed the milestone of 4 million vaccination doses administered, but 20 million adult Australians need two doses. We are also turning our attention to expanding the vaccine to Australian teens.

We may have thought we had the luxury of time.

We don't. There's no time to waste.

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This story Victoria's lockdown is shaking us awake, again; an overhaul is needed first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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