Federal Government Took Developing Countries’ Vaccines

First we had massive reliance on AstraZeneca despite a red-flag “dosing error” during their clinical trials, and had to buy more Pfizer at last-minute prices. Then we had a half-hearted roll-out with no additional infrastructure put in place. GPs were disincentivised from vaccinating and the online booking system failed. 

AstraZeneca was okay, then not okay, and now okay again, against the expert advice; seven people have since died from clotting. Currently, Australia’s vaccination rate is last in the OECD and below the world average. 

Now, a shameful chapter has been added to this embarrassment of errors. The federal government has purchased 500,000 vaccine doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility intended for the formerly colonised countries of the Global South.

Our government is worse than the rich kid who fumbles the budgeting but has dad’s credit card in the back-pocket. It is using its wealth to take from those who cannot afford the vaccine at all.

This isn’t just morally despicable; it’s also short-sighted. The delta variant developed as the virus spread through an unvaccinated India, and we can expect more and worse unless the whole world has access to vaccines.

Australia already has 45 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna on order, plus another 51 million of Novavax, which can also be manufactured here by CSL. Novavax reported 90% efficacy for its vaccine in Phase 3 trial results published in June.

Other rich countries take from COVAX facility

But Australia is not the only one. Britain, Canada and New Zealand (see a pattern?) also took doses from COVAX, alongside such ethical exemplars as Saudi-Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Meanwhile, less than 2% of Africans have been vaccinated. “High-income countries have given 61 times more doses per person than low-income countries,” said the WHO in a statement late last month.

“I need to be blunt,” said Dr Tedros, the Ethiopian national who heads the WHO. “The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.”

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