Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout

Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Main Image

03 June 2021

The Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister has just told us all to crack a smile and to celebrate. But in these times I'd like to start by acknowledging every Australian who has made enormous sacrifices to keep us safe during the global pandemic, especially Victorians facing their fourth lockdown and the many who are carrying the burden of this government's failures on quarantine and the vaccine rollout.

The Prime Minister tells us the COVID-19 vaccine is not a race, but it is. It's a race to beat this virus and the dangerous mutations leading to outbreaks across the world and close to home. The Prime Minister tells us not to fear the virus, but Australians, especially the most vulnerable, are paying the price for a Prime Minister who refuses to take responsibility, who refuses to do his job. Try telling frail, older Australians living in residential aged care that it's not a race or the workers trying to keep them safe who have been left behind and exposed when it comes to vaccination, or aged-care workers on the Central Coast of New South Wales, in the electorate I represent, who have been told they have to travel to Sydney or Newcastle to get their vaccine.

Try telling people living with a disability, who have been left exposed and vulnerable, and those who love and care for them that it's not a race—people like John Buckley, who contacted me concerned that his brother Terry, who lives with a severe disability, has not yet received the AstraZeneca vaccine and he understands that the home that he lives in Casuarina Grove, in my electorate, has not yet been allocated any vaccines. John said:

I am both appalled and astounded to discover that my brother and all the other seriously disabled residents of this facility are still waiting for appropriate intervention by the relevant government and non- government bodies.

As a pharmacist, a trained vaccinator and a local MP, I am increasingly concerned about vulnerable Australians who are exposed and at risk—and this risk is largely avoidable.

Last week, the government received 1.4 million vaccine doses but administered just over 500,000. We were told aged-care residents would be fully vaccinated by Easter under phase 1A. That was two months ago. It is now June—winter; the most dangerous season—and older Australians are still waiting and at risk. We were told four million Australians would be vaccinated by 1 April. The government missed their own target by 3.4 million. They told us back in February that there would be 13 pop-up vaccination clinics for aged-care workers ready by May. It is now June and there are only three and they are all in Sydney. That is where aged-care workers in my community and other regional areas are having to travel to be covered, to be safe and to keep other people safe.

This government has let down aged-care workers, frontline workers Australia is depending on to get us through the pandemic—many aged-care workers who have no choice but to work on more than one site just to get by to make a living. In the wake of the tragic COVID-19 deaths of 655 aged-care residents in Victoria, the government withdrew rules on single-site working in aged-care homes and only reinstated them last week. Aged-care workers are as much the victim of this government's botched vaccine rollout as the people they are trying to keep safe. While they are looking after the most vulnerable, frail older Australians who is looking out for them? Not this government.

Every time there is an outbreak from hotel quarantine, it is a direct result of Scott Morrison's failure to set up safe, purpose-built quarantine facilities.

Every time there is an outbreak from hotel quarantine it costs workers wages and businesses lose income. Hotels are built for tourism, not for medical quarantine. This is a Prime Minister who never takes responsibility for anything—who doesn't take responsibility for quarantine and who hasn't taken responsibility for the debacle of the vaccine rollout.

In my community, one in five people are aged over 65. In my community there are 26 aged-care facilities. In communities like mine across Australia, vulnerable Australians are at risk, and that is because of the failure of this government. This is a Prime Minister who doesn't even take responsibility for the words that he says about the vaccine rollout, saying that the vaccine rollout is not a race, saying that we shouldn't fear this virus. This is the largest public health effort in living memory. As a pharmacist, as a local MP, as a trained vaccinator, I know how important this is. I know that Australians are relying on us. I know that the most-vulnerable Australians are feeling at risk and exposed, and the government must take responsibility. They must get it right. It's too important.