Australia can end lockdowns and start to reopen its border once 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated – and we may be able to get there by the end of the year, according to a new Grattan Institute report. Race to 80: our best shot at living with COVID highlights that once 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated – and 95 per cent of the most vulnerable, including the over-70s – Australia can safety begin to ‘live with COVID’.
Grattan Institute modelling for the report shows that at 80 per cent COVID would be in the community, but severe cases would be rare.
Opening up too early – for example at 50 per cent, or 70 per cent – would risk rampant spread of the virus and hospitals being overwhelmed.
‘The bad news is that our modelling shows we cannot safely reopen Australia until we get to 80 per cent vaccinated,’ says lead author, Grattan Health Program Director Stephen Duckett. ‘But the good news is that our report shows we can get there quickly.’ Australia is scheduled to get more than enough vaccine supplies within months, and surveys show only about 10 per cent of Australians are entrenched anti-vaxxers.
Logistics will be crucial to supercharging the rollout. People should be able to get their jab at mass vaccination hubs, doctors, pharmacies, schools, their workplaces, and through pop-up clinics at supermarkets and sporting events. Once supply arrives and everyone is eligible, governments should launch campaigns aimed at hesitant and specific populations, including young people and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The Federal Government should establish Vaxlotto, a national $10 million-a-week lottery – everyone who has had one jab is in, and everyone with two jabs doubles their chances. State governments should issue ‘vaccine passports’ for domestic air travel and entry to hospitality, sports, and entertainment venues. If necessary, vaccines should be made mandatory for people who work with vulnerable populations or in high-risk settings, including aged care workers, hospital staff, disability care workers, prison workers, and teachers.
‘We should throw everything including the kitchen sink at this,’ says co-author and Grattan CEO Danielle Wood. ‘We can’t stay walled inside Fortress Australia indeﬁnitely, cut off from the rest of the world and periodically cut off from one another.’ The 80 per cent threshold could be reached as early as the end of this year if a vaccine becomes available in coming months for children under 12. But if a vaccine is not approved for children under 12, a target date of March next year would be more realistic. Once 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, lockdowns should become a thing of the past, and quarantine requirements should end for fully vaccinated Australian residents and some fully vaccinated international visitors.
We should then push on with vaccinations, and once 85 per cent are vaccinated, all border restations should be removed for vaccinated people. ‘Australians shouldn’t and won’t accept high death tolls or indefinite restrictions,’ says co-author and Grattan Economic Policy Program Director Brendan Coates.
‘Racing to 80 per cent and then pushing on to 85 per cent is Australia’s ticket to opening up. Failure is not an option.’
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