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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Jane Halton on the risk of ‘vaccine nationalism’

Jane Halton on the risk of ‘vaccine nationalism’

Jane Halton, who formerly headed the federal health and finance departments, is chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness.

CEPI, founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is at the forefront of the international search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

She is also a member of the Morrison government’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, which liaises with business and advises government on how to mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

Currently she’s undertaking a nationwide review of the hotel quarantine system.

Halton, who when in the public service took part in a government pandemic rehearsal, says Australia was relatively ready. But she says that inevitably, when there’s a review in the wake of COVID-19, there’ll be a lot to learn from this experience. “Just like we’ve learnt from H1N1…just like we’ve learned from SARS.

"But in the short term, the systems stood up capacity really quickly, which is great.”

On the reality of vaccine being developed, while it might not be soon, Halton is relatively optimistic.

“Look, there are lots of experts who are both optimistic and pessimistic.”

“The experts that I work with, they are probably what I would describe as moderately optimistic. Now, they sort of have to be because they’re working on this and they are spending huge hours every day, every week in this race. And so they have to think that there’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But there’s a pretty significant number of scientists who do think it’s possible.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

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