Chile has vaccinated 20 percent of its population against Covid-19 in the past month. Commencing with health practitioners on 3 February 2021, 21.2 percent of the country’s 19 million people have now received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Latin American nation is now the second-fastest vaccinating country in the world, vaccinating nearly 1 percent of its population every day. This is just 10 percent below the rate of Israel, which is the site of Pfizer’s large real-world efficacy trials and is receiving privileged access to the Pfizer vaccine.
As usual, Latin Americans by contrast have been obliged to make do with whatever they can get. In Chile, this has meant the government placing orders with all of Pfizer, Sinovac and AstraZeneca, requesting doses from the World Health Organization’s Covax vaccine program, and also awaiting confirmation of an order from Johnson & Johnson.
As someone who has been criticising the federal government’s blasé attitude to vaccine roll-out for months, I find it irresistible to compare Chile’s progress to Australia’s. Keep in mind that Australia’s GDP per capita is 3.6 times greater than Chile’s.
Covid-19 vaccination commenced in Australia on 22 February, and in the first fortnight, 86,000 people were vaccinated. In Chile’s first 15 days, they vaccinated 2.7 million people.
Why has Chile vaccinated so much faster than Australia?
How are they doing it? One major reason is they aren’t just blandly giving the vaccines to already overworked GPs and hospital staff.
The Chilean government stuck its neck out and implemented a program to establish 1,400 mobile vaccination clinics around the country. As any member of the Chilean public can easily read here, these pop-up clinics can be found in schools in every town and suburb across the country, as well as in gymnasiums, community centres and libraries.
Morrison has so far been allergic to any big initiative along these lines. People take notice of big projects, and if they go wrong people notice that too. That leads to bad press, which is of course the worst possible thing that can happen…
So the government is continuing to pretend that health falls to the health people and the outcomes don’t reflect on them. This small-target strategy is clever enough in its way, but in the end the numbers will not lie.
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