I have my first AstraZeneca vaccination today, and I face it with some trepidation because of the clotting problem which has been associated with it. Even though the chances are very slight, or even minuscule, occurring at a rate of up to six people per million vaccinated1, if it happens to me, the odds will not matter. My partner has been fully vaccinated, having had two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the second one three weeks ago. The reason for the delay in getting mine is that I was booked in several weeks ago, but a few days before I was due to be jabbed I came down with a bad dose of influenza and had a temperature. Having a temperature was one of the symptoms which prevents a person receiving a vaccination. However, I am healthy now, and am off to get my arm punctured in about an hour.
Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed that “official” discussions with Pfizer had begun in December 2020, but after the truth leaked out, he finally confirmed that the government met with Pfizer in July of 2020 to discuss the purchase of the Pfizer vaccine. Australia was given options for as many doses as needed to be delivered in January of 2021, yet the government turned down the offer2. According to Hunt, the government rejected the offer citing “medical advice”, however this was most likely based on “commercial advice” because the there was no “medical advice” available at the time. It is suspected that the Pfizer offer was turned down for two reasons. It was more expensive than the AstraZeneca, and because the AstraZeneca vaccine could be manufactured in Australia by CSL. It has turned out that the AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against certain strains of COVID emerging, such as that from South Africa2.
If Australia had taken the Pfizer offer, we could have had 40 million doses of their vaccine in January2, and it is likely that we could have had a vaccination rate like that of nations such as the UK or the US, where almost half their populations have been vaccinated. Australia currently has a vaccination rate of about one tenth of that, with only 4.8% of the population fully vaccinated3. This is a complete shemozzle by the federal government and makes me grateful that the federal government devolved responsibility to the states in dealing with the pandemic. That is the way Morrison works. He abrogates responsibility, in the hope that no blame is apportioned to him. However, with the vaccine purchase and distribution, this is solely on the federal government, and it has been completely shambolic. If the current spread of the much more contagious Delta variant in Sydney, southeast Queensland, and Northern Territory leads to more deaths because of the low vaccination rate, those deaths will be on Morrison’s head. In addition, the nations with a higher vaccination rate are starting to open up their economies, whereas Australia is entering another phase of lockdown. This will cost the economy, largely because of the government’s stupidity and self-interest.
Another aspect of this shemozzle, is the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine could be manufactured by CSL, and this has allowed members of the Coalition parties to profit from the purchase of CSL shares. At about June 2020, federal MP Dave Sharma purchased shares in CSL. This is the company that, behind closed doors, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, tipped to manufacture what turned out to be the AstraZeneca vaccine4,5. It has been reported that at least two other Coalition parliamentarians have also bought shares in CSL. This is symptomatic of this government. They are solely concerned with what’s in it for them and bugger everyone else.
Most of the people I know in other parts of the world have had the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. If I had a choice, I’d get the Pfizer vaccine, but in Morrison’s Australia, I don’t get a choice.