When Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in March that the Covid vaccination rollout was not a race it was a political mistake for a simple reason; there’s nothing Australians love more than a race, particularly when it aligns with traditional rivalries. For our pandemic-primed premiers, nothing matters more than claiming a win against a counterpart. That vaccination can result in injury or death – even to celebrities – adds an element of danger and is one of the few levellers in a pandemic that has accentuated the privileges of the elite. The race to vaccinate the nation has become a weird hybrid of State of Origin footy, Survivor and the Hunger Games. Something for everyone and Australians are addicted.
When New South Wales was the ignominious leader in Covid case numbers, Premier Gladys Berejiklian tried lamely to walk away from fronting up to announce skyrocketing infections and the daily death toll. Yet the mere threat that the state opposition leader would fill in for her, persuaded her to remain at her post. Her flip flop was richly rewarded when Victoria overtook NSW this week as the state with the most daily infections. Victoria’s Covid computer delayed Premier Dan Andrews date with destiny for a day or two by accidentally losing 143 cases, a real-life case of ‘computer says no’. It’s the sort of glitch that usually only occurs in third world dictatorships, or US presidential elections.
It was a moment worthy of Greek tragicomedy. Andrews, and his ‘I stand with Dan’ fans have been crowing ever since Berejiklian delayed going into lockdown in June, that she had acted too late and been too soft. Hubristic pride has finally come to a record fall in the polls to 44 per cent. The only surprise is that it took so long. Throughout the pandemic, Andrews has been masterful in playing the Blame Game – sheeting home responsibility for outbreaks to everyone from skiers returning home from Aspen to the nebuliser of a man in quarantine. Last week, Melbourne set the record for the longest lockdown on earth and the buck, or the ballot, finally seems like it might stop with the Premier.
Berejiklian also is not above victimising the innocent, demonising the unvaccinated with a zeal worthy of a latter-day Savaronola. Gone are the days of professing ‘inclusion’ and abhorring anti-discrimination. She declared she wouldn’t want to be in a room full of unvaccinated people. She certainly won’t win any unvaccinated votes declaring, ‘Life for the unvaccinated will be very difficult indefinitely’. Indefinitely? It sounds like a long time until you remember that in May the Premier was gloating that she’d ‘demonstrated in NSW that there’s an alternate way to heavy-handed lockdowns’. If there is, she’d forgotten what it was less than a month later. (Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, all of whom never locked down, could have reminded her.)
Why demonise the vaccine refuseniks when most are simply waiting for the result of the safety trials to be completed and are not prepared to risk injury or death for an investigational vaccine which has already generated more than 560 reports of death post-immunisation, compared with only 60 for all vaccines in Australia in the last 40 years.
Even more incomprehensible is the failure of any Australian government, state or federal, to support the vaccine being developed by Professor Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in South Australia.
It was funding from the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that allowed his biotech Vaxine to conduct highly successful animal trials which showed his vaccine blocked symptomatic infection and, unlike the current leaky vaccines, may also prevent transmission.
That really would be a game changer. Instead of endless boosters and cases, it could end the pandemic. If the vaccine lives up to the promise of the animal trials, it will be rapidly approved overseas.
Whether the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) would follow suit however is far from certain. Petrovsky is both brilliant and honest. In May last year, when establishment scientists around the world were lying through their teeth that the virus could only have a natural origin, he was a lone voice with the courage and integrity to point out that Sars-Cov-2 was likely to have emerged in a lab because its spike protein binds more tightly to its human cell receptor, than to the target receptors on any other species.
Petrovsky has also just completed research using a supercomputer that shows that ivermectin is one of the currently approved drugs that is most likely to be able to treat Covid-19. That won’t win him points with the TGA.
Ignoring a safe vaccine that is on the brink of delivery, and a safe treatment, the rush to get vaccinated seems to be rousing even the premiers of the Covid zero states out of their slumber. Ever sensitive to a shift in the polls, perhaps they realise that their popularity might plummet when their citizens watch the people of NSW head off overseas.
What will Australia discover when its states reach the magical rates of 70 or 80 per cent vaccination? That depends. In Singapore, (77 per cent fully vaccinated) the rolling 7-day average of cases has jumped from 7 to 262 per million. In the Seychelles, (70 per cent fully vaccinated) the rate reached almost 1,000 per million. Yet in Denmark (75 per cent fully vaccinated) it’s only 59 per million. In Sweden, which never locked down (64 per cent fully vaccinated), it’s 62 cases per million, less than in Australia (52 per cent fully vaccinated) where it’s 68 cases per million. Indeed, when Sweden had only 30 per cent of its population vaccinated, at the end of June, the rate was only 20 cases per million.
As for deaths, they are down everywhere but the rate is highest in the US and the Seychelles (the daily rolling 7-day average is almost 6 per million) and lowest in Singapore and Denmark where it is roughly the same as in Australia; around 0.3 per million. Of course, the lowest rate of cases (20 per million) and deaths (0.2 per million) is in India, which uses that drug that dare not speak its name (I’ve – er – mentioned it above).
The Australian government and media has simply ignored the scientists who have made two of the most important discoveries of the pandemic.
As the Bible says, no one is a prophet in his own country. And in a pandemic, that is a tragedy of biblical proportions.
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