The Courier-Mail

We’ve come too far to stumble at last hurdle

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IN the raw and alarming early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, we galvanised as a nation and combined to produce one of the more spectacula­r global responses.

Our health and financial narrative was projected as worldleadi­ng and as the United States, Brazil and Europe struggled with wave after wave, we handled the early stages with dexterity and aplomb.

Other than Victoria’s hotel quarantine fiasco, Australian­s complied with the restrictio­ns and lockdowns, cognisant that if there wasn’t a near perfect response, we’d lose many people to the killer virus.

Queensland’s toll, with about 1500 cases and seven deaths so far, is an outcome as good as anywhere in the world.

While the Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, was pilloried for a lack of compassion by denying people the opportunit­y to attend family funerals and denying healthcare to NSW residents, it was this strict lockdown approach that worked.

She was rewarded with a thumping re-election victory. But in recent weeks, as we begin the painstakin­g and complex task of rolling out the vaccinatio­n program, it seems Australia has taken its eye off the ball.

How can they be doing seven million vaccinatio­ns a day in the United States, and we can’t get frontline healthcare workers inoculated? Why is it that the UK has been ravaged by the virus, sending the economy into freefall, yet they are vaccinatin­g hundreds of thousands of people a day?

And while the Morrison government can rightfully point to its outstandin­g initial health and fiscal response, the wheels appear to have well and truly fallen off the vaccinatio­n program. The reason is that we have been forced to rely on securing vaccine stocks from other countries, with the European

Union pointedly refusing to release about 800,000 doses, claiming they were needed for their own people.

This highlights the necessity for a country like Australia to not rely on other jurisdicti­ons for our vaccine source, but press ahead with making our own.

That means the University of Queensland vaccinatio­n trials – put on hold after trial patients recorded false positive HIV results – must not only be reignited and be brought back on track, but be embraced by the Therapeuti­c Goods Administra­tion.

New research indicates the vaccine’s “clamp technology” is incredibly effective. Surely the setbacks can be overcome.

If they are, the production hub of CSL must be fast-tracked to produce the necessary vaccine vials to safeguard Australia’s population of 25 million.

What is important now is that the Commonweal­th and states stop their bickering and get on with the job of protecting the community from this killer virus. The lack of teamwork on the vaccinatio­n rollout – and the subsequent finger pointing – is a national disgrace.

If it’s OK for stadiums, footy fields and schools to be used as vaccinatio­n hubs in other countries, surely it’s something we can adopt.

Surely, the military being drafted in to do the hard yards is also a good option. Australia must not squander our herculean effort in containing the virus. We must catch up quickly to the other nations, as internatio­nal travel now rests solely on the success of our vaccinatio­n rollout.

We’ve come too far to get it wrong now.

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