In the grip of Covid health fascism
by ROSS FITZGERALD
At the National Press Club in Canberra at the start of the year, Scott Morrison said the government’s main task this year would be getting everyone vaccinated so life could return to normal. Well, the year’s half over yet life is as disrupted as ever; and with scarcely a third of Australians with their first shot, and scarcely 5 per cent fully vaccinated, there’s no end in sight.
Initially, the problem was that we didn’t have enough vaccines. Now the problem is we don’t have enough of the “right” vaccine; that is, Pfizer. This is because the government has allowed a one in two million chance of dying from an AstraZeneca-related blood clot to create a vaccine anxiety that’s rivalling the initial virus hysteria.
For reasons that haven’t been explained, a vaccine that still was regarded as safe for everyone over 40 in Britain supposedly was safe only for people over 60 here. It then was announced that this vaccine that still supposedly was safe for those aged 60-plus was going to be phased out by the end of the year. Then on Monday night the Prime Minister suddenly announced that all adults could get the AZ jab because GPs would be given indemnity from legal action if things went wrong. How’s that for instilling confidence?
A more basic problem is that the usual mechanisms for getting people vaccinated aren’t being used. Every year, about 60 per cent of Australian adults get a flu shot. That’s more than 10 million people vaccinated in a month, without fuss. Yet the pharmacies that do a large percentage of the flu shots aren’t allowed to do any Covid shots until the end of the year.
Part of the problem is getting vaccinated doesn’t make a scrap of difference to whether you have to isolate as a close contact of Covid cases, stay at home during lockdowns, need to mask up or get a leave pass to exit Fortress Australia and spend two weeks in quarantine on return. Some are asking why they should get vaccinated when there have been two vaccine-related deaths in this country in the past six months compared with zero Covid-related ones.
Come next March, unless a lot changes, Morrison, who is supposed to be a great marketing salesman, will have failed in the one big task he set himself. By then the mask mandates, border closures and lockdowns many citizens welcomed as necessary precautions could be seen as burdens that have to be suffered only because the federal government was incompetent and dilatory at getting people vaccinated.
Far from handling Covid so much better than Britain and the US (which by then will have been long fully vaccinated and back to normal), we will remain subject to lockup because of a botched vaccine rollout.
Then there’s unprecedented restrictions on the most basic freedom of all: freedom of movement. The Morrison government failed to challenge state border closures, even by states with no Covid cases against other states with no cases.
And it has given rhetorical support to every state lockdown, even those caused by state government incompetence, such as the four-month near-house arrest of Melburnians after Covid escaped from quarantine hotels run by untrained private security guards; the Adelaide lockdown based on the erroneous supposition that Covid was being transmitted on pizza boxes; and the latest lockdowns in NSW, despite its “gold standard contact tracing”, because airport drivers weren’t required to wear personal protective equipment and get tested.
Britain is about to scrap all remaining restrictions despite about 10,000 new cases a day because vaccination has made Covid hardly more deadly than the standard flu. US states such as Texas and Florida have been open for months, and even California and New York are back to normal despite hundreds of new cases a day.
But because of vaccination failures, Australia is still in the grip of a kind of health fascism. Not much for a supposedly Liberal government to boast about.
For the record, I’ve had two shots of AstraZeneca.
Ross Fitzgerald is emeritus professor of history and politics at Griffith University and the author of 42 books.
The Australian, June 30, 2021, p 9.