Australia’s economy is likely to take a $1.4bn hit because of delays in rolling out the coronavirus vaccine, researchers say.
The nation would need to boost its vaccination rate up to 15 times to meet targets set out in the federal government’s road map, modelling by the The McKell Institute suggests.
The federal government’s January road map indicated 65 per cent of the population would be vaccinated by August. The World Health Organisation says vaccine coverage of 65 to 70 per cent is what’s needed to reach population immunity.
However, delays to the rollout have blown the date out, in turn increasing the likelihood of more lockdowns and restrictions.
“Even if Australia instantly picks up its vaccination rollout rate to that of the UK – currently the second-best performer in the world – it would delay herd immunity by 116 days from the Morrison government’s original projection,” The McKell Institute report released on Monday says.
“On this projection, Australia could expect 11.1 days of lockdown in the extra period, costing the economy some $1.368 billion.”
The Prime Minister has abandoned his January targets for the vaccine rollout following new medical advice that emerged last week.
Australia’s medical experts on Thursday recommended against using AstraZeneca to vaccinate people under 50 because of concerns about a rare blood clotting disease.
Scott Morrison said on Sunday the government had no plans to set any new targets for delivering the vaccines.
“The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Mr Morrison said in a Facebook post.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.”
To meet the existing road map targets, Australia will need to have the second fastest vaccination program in the world, on a per capita basis, the researchers say.
Israel has the highest vaccination rate per 100 people of any population in the world, having vaccinated about 60 per cent of its people. They are followed by the UK.
“Australia’s vaccine rollout is running well behind the announced schedule,” The McKell Institute report says.
“Australia missed the Prime Minister’s March target by 3.4 million doses, or over 80 per cent.
“These early delays will likely delay the completion of the Australian vaccination program as well as the point at which herd immunity is reached.
“These delays increase the risk of lockdowns and the economic costs that come with them.”
The report authors suggest the average daily cost of the lockdown in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne was at least $123m.
While The McKell Institute’s report was finalised on Friday, the pause on using AstraZeneca in those aged under 50 is also likely to worsen its predictions for the cost of the delayed rollout.
So far, 1.16 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia, with more than 465,000 given by GPs.
Another 1000 GPs are expected to join the rollout this week, taking the total number to more than 4000.