From epidemic success to vaccine failure: Why Australia and New Zealand are at risk of being pushed back by the rest of the world
New Zealand and Australia are considered epidemic success stories. But slow vaccination campaigns can now destroy lead.
In Australia, as in New Zealand, people have largely returned to normal life. Kids go to school, restaurants and cafes are packed, and theater shows, concerts and sporting events are well attended. This is not surprising, since covet cases are usually registered only among isolated returnees.
In an analysis by the Australian Lowe’s Institute, New Zealand excelled in assessing how individual nations managed the epidemic in January. Australia also finished in the top ten.
New Zealand and Australia’s victory strategies have closed outer borders, an isolated system to prevent the “import” of Covit-19, rigorous testing, extensive contact surveillance and lightning locks to prevent the virus from spreading quickly and effectively from millions of cities.
In this way, the nations were ahead of the curve for months: the default returned to daily life, saving thousands of lives. There have been 910 deaths from 30,000 infections in Australia so far and 26 deaths in 2,600 cases in New Zealand.
Economic damage due to continued damage was also kept within range: New Zealand’s economy shrank 2.9 percent last year, compared to Australia’s only 1.1 percent. In particular, the Australian economy has recovered strongly in the last six months of 2020: 3.4 per cent in the September quarter and 3.1 per cent in the three months to the end of December.
Slow down vaccination campaigns
But when it comes to vaccination, the situation is completely different. Campaigns in both countries have been slow so far, and since then the United States and especially Great Britain have been rapidly vaccinating, with some now fearing that Australia and New Zealand will lag behind, mainly thanks to their closed outer borders. Australia, which at one time planned to vaccinate its population by the end of this year, vaccinated just 1.9 million people by April 26. New Zealand is only about 180,000, with a total of 25 million Australians and a fraction of five million New Zealanders.
Australia had to drop its own vaccine because it gave false positive results in HIV tests, and the country opted for three vaccines: Pfizer / Biotech, Astrogeneca and Novax. Only the first two have been approved in the country so far, and AstraZeneca is set to become the vaccine of choice. But isolated cases of blood clots after being vaccinated with AstraZeneca have now torpedoed Australia’s vaccination strategy.
Health officials have decided not to vaccinate people under the age of 50 for the time being and ordered higher doses from Pfizer / Biotech. As a result, Australia are now far behind in the queue. New Zealand, which is vaccinated with Pfizer / Biotech, has so far only cared for high-risk groups and has landed a slow start.
Arguments: Caution and consideration
So the Australian vaccination campaign is already being called a “failure” and New Zealand a “mess”. But the heads of government of the two island states have not yet been impressed by the harsh words. Australia’s Scott Morrison pointed out that there are benefits to going slow. Because in this way one can learn from vaccination campaigns in other countries. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern also stressed that the situation in her country could not be compared to the rest of the world because, after all, no one in New Zealand would die of Covit-19 anymore.
In an interview with national television broadcaster TVNJet, the Social Democrat politician said he felt it was a little right to be “in the Peking line later.” Because it is also important for developing countries to get vaccinated. “As long as we are all part of a wider vaccination program, no one is safe,” he said. This is because once Covit-19 spreads in a country, mutations can occur, which can affect the effectiveness of vaccines.
However, others fear that the two success stories of the epidemic will lose their lead in this way. “As more countries vaccinate their people, New Zealand run the risk of being pushed back,” said Chris Bishop, a New Zealand opposition politician. Those countries will then open their trade and travel again, while New Zealand will be left behind. “The elimination of Govt-19 in New Zealand should have been an opportunity for us to recover faster than the rest of the world.” Now they run the risk of wasting that head start.
Australia is also already paying the price for the slow vaccine campaign. Over the weekend, Perth, another metropolitan area with a population of more than a million, had to go into a state of lockdown after a cowboy infiltrated the community from isolation.
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