Tag Archives: Nick Coatsworth

When you can’t trust the leader…

14 Feb

One month ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that it is his government’s aim to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, with a target to roll out 80,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per week by mid to late February. 

First, do the maths & see if you think this is honest.

Then consider for a moment what kind of leader makes a vaccination announcement that is so glaringly untruthful it can’t be rationalised as a careless mistake by even the most committed sycophant. 

You might conclude, as I have, that the Prime Minister doesn’t give a toss what he says about the vaccination rollout, as long as he says something. 

Two days ago, Mr Morrison told the media that our vaccination program is “on track”having clearly forgotten his January announcement, or else consigned it to his dustbin of announcements without substance that is, by now, surely filled to overflowing. 

Strangely, nobody at the press conferences where Mr Morrison has insisted we are “on track” has bothered to refer him to his January claims, or indeed, asked him to define what “on track” actually means, given those claims. 

But wait. There’s more. On the ABC Insiders program today it was stated that the vaccination roll out will begin next week. I asked for the source of this claim, because there is no such information on the government health website. 

As yet I’ve received no reply and I don’t really expect that I will, to be honest.

What I would like to know is why Insiders is apparently gifted with this announcement when the information is not available on the government website, and no politician has confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine has even arrived in the country. 

It is mid February. No roll out has been announced. We will not achieve a vaccination rate of 80,000 by the end of this week, and neither will we reach the four million figure pulled out of somebody’s nether regions by the end of March. We are not “on track.” We are very far from “on track.” 

On January 25, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to cover around 20% of the population. However, as of writing the Pfizer vaccine has not yet arrived in Australia from Europe and some 80,000 -100,000 doses are reportedly expected next week. These will be batch tested before they are rolled out, adding another week to the estimated wait time. 

Then there is the AstraZeneca vaccine, to be used for the majority of us.  There are 50 million doses in production on shore (or as Mr Morrison likes to call them, “sovereign” doses) while we are importing 3.8 million more.  This vaccine has not yet been approved for use by the TGA.  

So as of writing, there is, in fact, no vaccine at all in Australia that is ready for use. But don’t worry. We are on track! 

On February 4 the PM had the chutzpah to announce that given our “sovereign” production rate, we would begin vaccination before New Zealand, due to start in April. But that isn’t true either, dear readers! New Zealand will start its Pfizer roll out on February 20, 6 days from now, when we may or may not have our vaccine and even if we do, it won’t be ready for use! 

Mr Morrison has repeatedly referred us to the government health website for up to date and reliable information on matters to do with COVID-19. However, as mentioned above, you will find no indication on that site of when the vaccination roll out is due to begin. 

But what you will find on this government site is a statement by infectious diseases expert Dr Nick Coatsworth that COVID-19 “is definitely not an airborne pathogen” : (thanks to @SusanSmithAus for alerting me to this)

COVID-19 is definitely not an airborne pathogen. When you have airborne pathogens, like measles for example, the basic reproductive number that we’ve all come to know so well is much higher than what it is for COVID-19 – so, so definitely not an airborne. It’s got- this is a droplet pathogen which means it settles on surfaces. Once it is coughed up or expectorated it tends to- it drops to the ground very quickly. And that’s why hand hygiene and physical distance are our most important measures, and will be our most important measures particularly when we start opening businesses that they that they enable processes that allow us to keep our distance from each other until we have a vaccine or effective treatment.

Yet on January 16, a group of senior scientists, health and safety experts and doctors claimed that 

Failure at a federal level to acknowledge COVID-19 is transmitted through the air has been putting the community at risk…Leading scientists said the virus could be leaking through our border controls because authorities have not put in place precautions that provide the greatest possible protection from airborne transmission.

On ABC QandA last Thursday evening, Professor Coatsworth was forced to defend his position on aerosol transmission.  On February 4, experts claimed that the neglect of aerosol transmission was clearly a gap in Australia’s quarantine system.

In short, the federal government’s health website tells us nothing about when we can expect vaccines to be rolled out. It does, however, convey misleading information on the airborne nature of the COVID-19 virus, misinformation that is causing considerable consternation as experts work to address ongoing infections associated with quarantine hotels. 

It would seem a futile exercise, to attempt to mislead the community about something like a vaccination roll out. It’s not as if we won’t notice that we aren’t getting the needle. However, this is what Scott Morrison does.  He’s entirely focused on the announcement and entirely disinterested in the substance. Unfortunately, no one in the media seems to have charted his vaccine announcements or confronted him about their lack of substance. 

While the majority of Mr Morrison’s announcements are not concerned with life-threatening matters and are generally misleading, exasperating, hurtful and deeply disappointing, the COVID-19 situation demands from a leader clarity, straightforwardness and trustworthiness. 

None of these requirements are met by Morrison, or any of his ministers. 

Morrison must have known, when he made his announcement one month ago, that there was no possibility of vaccinating 80,000 people in February and 4 million by the end of March. He must have known this, and yet he delivered this message to the country anyway. This is not how we need a leader to behave in these circumstances, or any other.

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