Prime Minister for announcements

By August 20, 2020Australian Politics, Science

Scientists all over the world are attempting to develop a vaccine for SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes Covid-19, which, at the time of writing, has infected just over 22,638,000 people and killed 792,106 of them1. One of the most promising vaccines, apparently, is being developed at Oxford University, and the Covid-19 vaccine trial is being run by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. The team, who started work on developing a vaccine for the virus on 20th January 2020 is led by Professors Sarah Gilbert, Andrew Pollard, Teresa Lambe, Catherine Green, Adrian Hill and Dr Sandy Douglas2.

AstraZeneca PLC is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, England. The company was founded in 1999 by the merger of the Swedish Astra AB and the British Zeneca Group3. AstraZeneca are collaborating with the University of Oxford to accelerate the development and global distribution of this possible new vaccine4. The company has reached an agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), led by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, to supply up to 400 million doses of the possible vaccine. The IVA aims to accelerate the supply of the vaccine, if and when it proves effective and safe, to make it available to other European countries that wish to participate. AstraZeneca is attempting to expand manufacturing capacity further and aims to collaborate with other companies in order to meet its stated commitment to provide access to the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic5.

On the 19th of August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that “Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Australian Government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective”. However, it is only later in this announcement that you find that this is solely a ‘letter of intent’ which is hardly any sort of ‘agreement’6. This overstatement by Morrison prompted AstraZeneca to come out on the same day to clarify that no such ‘deal’ actually exists, and that it was only a ‘letter of intent’ which had been signed by the two parties. The discrepancy between the two is more than just semantics. While Morrison’s initial language suggested there was a formal agreement in place, a letter of intent is more a non-binding indication of interest. An AstraZeneca spokesperson has said the letter of intent “doesn’t go into any detail about costs or numbers or anything”7. So, Morrison’s ‘25 million doses’ is spin at best; and equine ordure at worst.

In Morrison’s original announcement of the vaccine for Australia he said that taking the vaccine would be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it”. And that “there are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis”. However, not long after that, he backtracked8. Why would he backtrack? Because he, or someone in his office, realised that so many of his fruitcake QAnon supporters are also antivaxxers9,10, and enforcing any sort of vaccination would send them berserk, because these QAnon antivaxxers believe that Bill Gates wants to include a tiny computer chip in the vaccine which they believe is there to control their minds11  (yes, seriously).

As with many of Morrison’s announcements, there is little substance behind them. However, on the lighter side, this announcement is not as late as Morrison’s usually are. The agreement has actually been announced before the agreement exists. The government are usually late in their responses, being, reactive rather than ‘proactive’, and are usually concerned more with image management, partisan messaging12  or using the announcements as a distraction for something else which has come back to bite them, such as the current murderous aged care debacle.




  • Russell says:

    Instead of making premature promises to gain brownie points, Scomo would best spend a lot of time fixing the problems besetting his hapless backward party. His ministers are often not fully aware and energetic in their portfolios, as much of what they offer to the public is calculated polly babble substituting for clear determined ideas and action. Media appearances by Libs involve “up-beat” posing to impress more credulous viewers, and largely feigned big visions for the post-pandemic lockdown period. Silent truth is, they don’t know how to climb out of this canyon! A few of the ministers are chronic travel allowance over-users, even after Rubylips Bronwyn’s helicopter fiasco. Hunt is a sorry sight running health, Stuart Robert is sus everywhere, Taylor thinks he’s superior to accounting for misdeeds by providing (self-incriminating) answers to voters; as does the rorting one man circus Barnum Joyce. Centrelink bungling on debts has not finished, the Aged Care virus death tsunami reveals lack of foresight and firm instruction by a minister. Horribly too, but unsurprisingly, no serious (instead of faulty, insincere) policy for the ever-increasing climate emergency is evident anywhere. We in Australia depend mainly on the Murray Darling river system for domestic food sourcing; but after the gross incompetence and chicanery revealed by keen media investigators, the Basin administration is so far, a monumental stuff-up from several angles. Overall, we have been thrust into in a new game of national survival, and yet our image-obsessed, narrowly focussed political class stays locked into cliches and worn-out ways incapable of handling huge imminent problems of foreign relations, environmental disintegration etc. We who eye their deeds rather than words, won’t long abide an unhurried style involving prolonged, piecemeal action and the usual short-term outlook. The year 2000 was perhaps that crucial moment Australia could have successfully begun policies to avoid certain awful outcomes foretold by expert, detailed researchers, but no. 20 extra years were misspent with politicians ignoring or badly implementing key professional reports to government ( like Garnaut’s). Suggestions for reframing poor, failing programmes and plans languished . Our self-deceit and fear of staring straight at some nation-wide flaws and wrong-headed policies, have left Australia environmentally, socially, economically much worse off. The Liberal-National mob even now, doesn’t grasp fully that massive, smart changes must occur, not soon, but immediately. If the policy and leadership drought lingers until 2040, bothering to act will be of zero point.

    • admin says:

      Yep, but I think you grossly overestimate Morrison’s abilities. He cannot ‘fix’ his hapless backward party because he is a product of its hapless backwardness. Morrison is just ‘Trump-lite’. He lies, he distracts, he always blames others and when things get difficult he buggers off home. The only difference between Trump and Morrison is that Trump is exceptionally inarticulate and, when speaking off the cuff, rarely comes up with complete sentences. Morrison can actually string several sentences together, but despite this, his utterances are similarly meaningless, and sprinkled with vacuous platitudes. I suspect this is why he has so many of the lesser journalists buffaloed. Morrison has the glibness of a racecourse urger, and the morals to go with it.

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