We are in the middle of the Morrison nightmare. While the pandemic apparently all began in China when a virus jumped species in late 2019, it arrived in Australia in January 2020. Assorted companies scrambled to develop an effective vaccine and in anticipation of their eventual production, many nations had at least signed memoranda of understanding with several companies, so they didn’t put all their eggs in one basket. As a consequence, nations like the UK had signed deals to purchase the AstraZeneca, BioNtech/Pfizer and Valneva vaccines in July 20201.
In August 2020, the UK government also ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine and 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine (owned by Johnson & Johnson)2. In November, 2020, the UK signed a deal with Moderna to provide 5 million doses3. As a consequence, the UK’s potential stockpile would be over 340 million doses, for a nation with a population of 68 million. Because they acted early, the UK was able to begin its vaccine rollout in early December (8th), initially with the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine4.
On the 10th of July , there was a meeting between Pfizer and representatives of the Australian government regarding access to their vaccine. The government representatives insisted that Pfizer hand over all their Intellectual Property, and then started trying to knock down the price. In the end, the Australian government knocked back the offer of 40 million doses, which could have arrived in Australia in late January, 2021. Pfizer wanted to make Australia and Israel examples to the world, demonstrating how to roll out a vaccination program, and they simply wanted to know how many doses were required and when they were required. Israel, which began its vaccine rollout in mid-December (19th), had the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine playing a major role5.
On the 19th of August, 2020, 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 [i.e. AstraZeneca] vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective”. This overstatement by Morrison prompted AstraZeneca to come out on the same day to clarify that this was only a ‘letter of intent’ which had been signed by the two parties and that it “doesn’t go into any detail about costs or numbers or anything”6. So, this was just another line in bovine excrement spouted by Morrison
The slow rollout (or strollout as it has been called), of the vaccination program has been a running sore for the government, and is one of the reasons for the federal government’s plummeting approval ratings. This has led to Morrison scrabbling to attempt to speed things up. Perhaps the worst of these was his brain-fart in which he suggested that people under 60 should talk to their doctor and get the AstraZeneca vaccine. This went against advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) which stated that only people over 60 should get the AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine has been linked to several deaths in Australia from a rare clotting syndrome. Morrison announced this after a National Cabinet meeting, but it was not discussed at the meeting7.
Morrison will do anything to make himself look better and if a few young people die in that cause, he seems unconcerned. This is the sign of a malignant narcissist. As Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Jeanette Young stated: “I do not want under-40s to get AstraZeneca. … Because they are at increased risk of getting … the rare clotting syndrome. We’ve seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome. I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got Covid, probably wouldn’t die. We’ve had very few deaths due to Covid-19 in Australia in people under the age of 50, and wouldn’t it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland who dies related to this pandemic died because of the vaccine?”7
Morrison announced on the 9th of August, 2021 that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had provided provisional approval of the Moderna vaccine which, like that from BioNtech/Pfizer, is an mRNA vaccine8. As noted above, the UK signed an agreement with Moderna to obtain 5 million doses in November of 2020. This vaccine was approved for use in the UK in early January, 2021, and the order was upped to 17 million doses9. The first doses of Moderna vaccine were administered in the UK in the middle of April10.
While it may be tempting to assume that the UK is able to exert pressure on manufacturers to deliver much earlier to them than to most nations, that would be a mistake, as many other nations were well ahead of Australia. For example: Singapore was the first country in Asia to approve the Moderna vaccine, and did so in early February, 202111; and Canada approved the Moderna vaccine for use in late December, 2020 and the first doses were expected to be delivered by Christmas, ahead of the original scheduled January date12.
In another desperate attempt to try to shore up his popularity, Morrison has now announced that he has purchased 1 million doses of the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine from Poland. However, he would not say what the cost was13.
So, Morrison’s crowing about the approval of the Moderna vaccine for use in Australia and the purchase of a million BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine doses from Poland are simply more signs of his failure. He is always late and lacks the ability to imagine what that tardiness could mean. Early on in the reaction to the pandemic, it was clear to many that there was no federal leadership14.
We could have had 40 million Pfizer doses early this year; as it is we are now scrabbling for others’ castoffs and endangering lives by suggesting that younger people get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which goes against ATAGI’s recommendations.
That lack of imagination and leadership, especially with regard to the purchase of enough doses vaccines early enough has led to this Morrison nightmare. This will likely cause the deaths of many unvaccinated people and may cause the deaths from the rare clotting syndrome of some younger people who have had their first AstraZeneca vaccination from the rare clotting syndrome. This is a nightmare which will apparently get worse before it gets better. I have loved ones in the eastern states, some of whom are under 40 and who have been compelled to get the AstraZeneca vaccine in the absence of sufficient BioNtech/Pfizer. This is my Morrison nightmare. If anything happens to my loved ones, I will become Morrison’s nightmare.