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A vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Stephen Duckett on what’s gone wrong with the rollout

Stephen Duckett on what’s wrong with the rollout

As of Tuesday, only 920,334 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered - a fraction of the four million doses the Morrison government had promised by end-March.

The rollout’s complications and failures have sparked a backlash from some GPs, pharmacists, and states.

The federal government says the problems are mainly supply issues – notably, the failure of millions of doses to arrive from overseas. Also, CSL has had trouble quickly ramping up its production.

At the same time, there have been glitches in the logistics of delivery to doctors and the states.

This week Stephen Duckett joins the podcast to critique the rollout. Currently director of the health and aged care programme at the Grattan Institute, he was formerly secretary of the federal health department and so has seen the health bureaucracy from the inside.

Duckett is highly critical of how the rollout has gone, with the government over-hyping expectations.

“The government hasn’t met a single one of its targets so far. They had targets about four million people by the end of March. They had a target, about more than 500,000 residential aged care workers and residents by mid-March.

"Now, sure, it’s the biggest logistic exercise we have ever seen, but the government has had eight months or so to prepare for it.

"I think the government should have set reasonable targets. It should have said, look, we know it’s really, really important to get the vaccine rollout started, but we are reliant on overseas.”

“The prime minister said he wanted to under promise and over deliver. He did the reverse.”

One issue Duckett identifies has been the politicisation of the process.

“There’s been a huge number of vaccine announcements. Every micro-possibility has been wrung out of every announcement. We’ve got photos of vaccines coming off planes. We’ve got announcements that we’re thinking about having a contract.”

“I think[…]the commonwealth initially thought it was all going to go very smoothly and they’d coast into the election very, very comfortably on the back of a successful vaccination rollout programme.

"So I think it had a political overlay from the start.”

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Additional audio

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

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