By comparison, that’s the same number of Australians who were meant to have gotten a jab by the end of March … a target that the Government fell short of by 3.4 million people.
Just two per cent of Australians have received a jab so far, compared to 30 per cent of the US population and 46 per cent of people in the UK.
A number of frontline health workers, hotel quarantine workers and vulnerable aged care residents remain unvaccinated, despite the significant risks.
Supply from overseas has dwindled, distribution of what the country does hold has been marred by issues, communication between authorities and the GPs tasked with administering jabs is chaotic, and fury is growing, experts say.
The basic problem is that Morrison overpromised, did not do the preparation work to make sure that the distribution and vaccination networks were in place and organised, and when Europe choked off Australia’s supply the program faltered. However Europe’s actions are not an excuse. The report is that a shipment of 250,000 vaccines was blocked but this is only a small part of the short fall. There is a laboratory pumping out Astra Zeneca vaccines and the crisis is in large part self inflicted.
A bubble was nearly in place in February but Australia changed its mind at the last minute and negotiations continued. Katie Scotcher from Radio New Zealand reported this in March this year:
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has, however, clarified that officials were close to reaching an agreement at the start of February.
In response to a written question from National MP Chris Bishop, Hipkins said the two-way quarantine travel could start when “the respective health authorities have determined that the rate of Covid-19 transmission and associated public health risk is acceptably low in both countries”.
He also revealed New Zealand and Australian officials had discussed the draft arrangement text on 4 February but Australia changed its mind, deciding it wanted to be able to make independent decisions.
“We were relatively comfortable with where things were heading, we were sort of on track. Since then Australia’s position shifted so we’ve had to recalibrate,” Hipkins said.
“Look, these things happen.”
The independent approach Australia wants to take will be more challenging for the government to manage and as Hipkins explained during Question Time, there is a lot for officials to work through.
“Issues that we’re working through include understanding the circumstances that could lead to a suspension of green zone travel on either side of the Tasman; what we would do with those whose travel is disrupted by the suspension of a green zone; testing requirements that may be put in place on either side; Australia’s current exit visa restriction that prevents Australians travelling to New Zealand without a visa; the state-by-state differences in decision making in Australia; decision making around expansion to other countries outside of the safe travel zone and who would make those, and whether New Zealand would have any input into that process; and contact tracing system interoperability, in the event that we needed to do contact tracing for people who had been in one country, and were then identified as being more at risk after they had travelled to another country,” Hipkins said in the House.
So it appears the trans Tasman bubble will be a thing in the near future. But until both populations have been sufficiently vaccinated I suspect that a constant recalibration of arrangements will be required. And I am sure that flare ups of the virus on either side of the Tasman is going to upset and test any arrangements reached.