Actions Australia needs to take to manage COVID

Australia need to take the following comparatively inexpensive insurance measures to protect the health of Australians and to protect and support the Australian economy.

  1. We need a decent COVID vaccine for Australian's 50 and over.

    1. Why? AstraZeneca is crap protection against South African variant (particularly when you consider Long-COVID) and probably also against most (at 14/5/21) of the major variants circulation around the world today. (Eg Brazilian variant also New York and Californian variant ... and quite possibly the Indian variant, which may prove to be the most dangerous current variant.)

    2. Action required now. Order now mRNA vaccines for Aussies 50+ years old. Order now, mRNA vaccine boosters for all Aussies, to protect against current know variants.

      1. Secondary action: Prioritise urgently building/developing major mRNA facility in Australia. eg next 6 months to complete.

  2. Set up safe volume national quarantine stations, outside CDBs so keep community safe & save prevent the need for expensive city lockdowns

    1. Why?  We need to get the 35,000 Aussies (prevented from coming home by quota system etc) home from overseas, get foreign students coming back to Australian universities etc, get key skills/workers to come back into Australia from overseas to help the Australian economy to get back to where it should be. And medicos tell us that it is only a matter of time, before one of the new more dangerous variants gets loose and runs rampant through our inadequately vaccinated population.

    2. Action required now: Prioritise building of safe volume national major quarantine stations outside cities.

    3. What is the cost of not building safe quarantine stations outside of our CBDs? Every time we get a COVID escape from a CBD quarantine hotel (and there have been many), we have city or state-wide lock-down, which causes massive costs to the city state and the businesses within (and lost jobs and family disruptions). The 7-day lockdown in Victoria commencing 28/May/21 is estimated to cost Victoria $1Billion. ( Seven-day lockdown could cost Victoria $1 billion | Coronavirus | 9 News Australia , Bitter taste of lockdown that industry group says will cost business $2.5b )  My feeling is that it will be cheaper to build safe quarantine stations than continually paying the cost of these lock-downs.

  3. Plan needed for a future major Long-COVID medical problem. https://www.puzzlefinancialadvice.com/long-covid 

Cost/Benefit of doing this:

  • Cost: $2billion easily.    Let us be generous - say $3billion.   This is cheap "insurance" against major future and ongoing cost to the economy and to the Federal budget

  • Benefits:

    • COVID is costing Australia hundreds of billions of dollar per year - to the economy and jobs, and this is ignoring the hundreds of billions dollars opportunity cost from sub-optimum economic performance - and impact of lives of ordinary Australians.

      • So far in Federal government deficit spending so far, costs are at least $200billion. (March2020-April2021)

      • Ongoing Federal government deficit spending for the next decade of tens of billions of dollars more ... and this assumes (as medico experts warn us) that there is no new more dangerous COVID variant that creates a whole new massive global pandemic.

  • Cost/benefit summary:

    • Expense of a few billions dollars will deliver hundreds of billions of benefits to Australia. It no-brainer. So why are we not doing this?  Where is the plan?

Some of the medical dangers of not insuring against COVID variants as per above:

  • 2/April/21 Clinical update - it was this update that helped me to understand that COVID was far more dangerous than I had realised.  https://www.puzzlefinancialadvice.com/single-post/covid-research-update-anne-de-gheest-2nd-april-2021 The 2 big issues that Anne identified for me were:

    • In a survey of 77 top epidemiologists in the world from 28 countries, two thirds of these experts believe that there will be so many mutations in the next 12 months, that current vaccines will be ineffective in the next 12 months. Also that it the South African variant already made current vaccines far less effect - probably the Brazilian P1 variant as well.

    • The huge dangers that Long-COVID presents even for the many people who have had asymptomatic or mild COVID infections.  https://www.puzzlefinancialadvice.com/long-covid  

  • 8/May/21 Top epidemiologist says virus outbreak is ‘absolutely inevitable’  https://www.smh.com.au/national/top-epidemiologist-says-virus-outbreak-is-absolutely-inevitable-20210507-p57pth.html   "The risk of a disastrous coronavirus outbreak in Australia is now at its highest level since the pandemic began and continued escapes from quarantine can be expected at least every month. James McCaw, an epidemiologist and mathematical biologist with the University of Melbourne who is leading a research team providing modelling on the pandemic to the federal government, said it was “absolutely inevitable” that the virus would spread within Australia.

  • 13/May/21 Eric Topol "I can think of 10 reasons (not to panic re variants). They are all vaccineshttps://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1392828494816546826  

  • 14/May/21 Eric Topol "It's abundantly clear now, at least w/ mRNA vaccines, that transmission (of COVID) is rare

    • "Why did it take @CDCgov https://www.cdc.gov/ til May 13 to recommend the vaccinated be liberated? Because it was unclear if vaccines protect against transmission—not just harboring the virus in your nose—but spreading it"

    • So why doesn't have its strategy together for all Australians to be vaccinated with mRNA COVID vaccines (and to continue to have mRNA vaccine  booster shots regularly as Israel has already done for its whole population and as USA is doing? Where is the plan?      

Next stage in updating this page is to map the current Federal Government actions/plans against the above requirements and to highlight the short-falls.

Priority items:

  • Have a plan. I think it would help instil more public confidence, if the government had a published plan about how it would deal with known COVID challenges - and had orders in place for adequate quality proven COVID vaccines for all Australians. This can be done now. The 23/May/21 article below with comments from Greg Hunt suggests this might have been now done??

  • Number 1 priorityGetting a highly-effective COVID vaccine for all Australians. At the moment at least, the most effective vaccines are clearly the mRNA vaccines - and the mRNA vaccine technology clearly can be adapted quickly to the currently variants (as at 15/5/21, Eric Topol seems to be indicating that the mRNA vaccines are dealing adequately with current variants) and future variants. 

    • That means ordering mRNA vaccines for Australian's in the 50+ age group - for 2021.

    • That means ordering mRNA booster vaccines for 2022 and beyond

      • Pfizer CEO says third COVID jab may be needed, plus annual booster  SMH 16/Apr/21

        • The Biden administration is preparing for the likelihood people will need a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine within a year of being inoculated, a requirement that would put even greater strain on the global supply of vaccines.

        • Bourla (CEO Pfizer) told CNBC it was “likely” a booster shot will be necessary as soon as six months after the initial two-dose vaccine regimen.    The US would need to secure hundreds of millions of extra doses for its own population if a third dose is required and eligibility is extended to younger children, which would make it even harder for nations such as Australia to acquire extra Pfizer doses from American factories. Bourla said it was possible people will eventually need an annual booster shot to ensure they remain protected against the virus.

      • Given that background, "clearly" the Australian government needs to be placing orders for those booster shots and the annual top-up vaccinations for 2022 now - otherwise we AGAIN will not have enough vaccines when needed, in late 2021 (when we will need boosters - see Dr Norman Swan's 25/5/21 comments below) and in 2022 (when we will need our annual top-up vaccines to refresh our immunity and to deal with newer variants)

    • The FY22 Federal budget clearly did not provide adequate funding for this - suggesting that this is not a government priority.

      • In the FY21 budget, there is only $704m allocated for "access to COVID-19 vaccines and consumables" for FY22, and nothing in the years beyond. This suggests:

        • an inadequate grasp of the ongoing (multi-year) dangers of COVID including need for ongoing COVID boosters at least annually. It is almost as if the governments feels that giving us each a once-off vaccine (including with AstraZeneca) for COVID will be enough to deal with this COVID problem!  Huh??

        • and it is not recognising the need top get all Australians vaccinated with a highly effect vaccine - with the only ones currently fitting that bill being mRNA vaccines.

    • Yes, the Moderna vaccine order will help but it is not enough.

  • Number 2 priority: Safe volume national quarantine stations, outside CBDs.

    • This is not happening - and no plans, though maybe he Federal government will support the Victorian proposal for one in Victoria. That would be a useful start.

  • Number 3 priority: A plan for Long-COVID

    • The government has not even acknowledged the potential major health issue that this will create.

      • You might say, but we have so few cases of COVID in Australia, why is this a big deal for us?  

        • That ignores the warnings from medicos (eg see above) that it is only a matter of time before a major outbreak in Australia - most likely from one of the more dangerous of the variants.

        • This also ignores the fact that over time, we will have more Australians in Australia that have been infected by COVID overseas.

In summary then re government COVID actions, at the moment (15/5/21):

  • the Australian government does not seem to be taking COVID seriously enough yet -definitely not treating it as if it is a high enough national priority to fix the root-cause COVID problem health properly .... despite the massive extra fiscal deficit being run , as a result of COVID causing massive economic pain to Australia.

Relevant articles from 21/May/2021

Dr Norman Swan says over-50s should get AstraZeneca now + Pfizer booster at years end. Better protection than 2 Pfizer shots.  25/May/21

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMmB3S2xDzg  

  • At 2mins40 into this clip, Norman suggests that Aussie's 50+ will :

    • be better off getting AstraZeneca now plus Pfizer booster at years end  (He says that is what the Federal Government's policy SHOULD be promising to those Aussies 50+) THAN

    • waiting for 2 shots of Pfizer at the end of the year. If you wait till year's end, you will be in the queue behind 12 years old, and you probably won't get Pfizer shot till well into 2022.

    • If the Federal government made this commitment to Aussies 50+, this would then accelerate the take-up rate of AstraZeneca now, because it would offer a better option than what is currently on the table. And it would also be better for Australia, because it would help manage the major risk of a major COVID outbreak in Australia.

  • Norman acknowledges that the AstraZeneca is less effective versus Indian variant than Pfizer vaccine.

  • It will be far easier for the government to give older Australian's a Pfizer booster at the end of this year than to give them a 2 dose Pfizer regime and this will give us better immunity than 2 doses of Pfizer - and more resilience against the variants.

  • The Federal government:

    • Has been appallingly bad at being fully open and honest with the Australian electorate about the risks and issues posed by COVID. This does not inspire confidence that they know what they are doing and can get the COVID strategy right.

    • So the Federal government SHOULD,

      • IF they really understand the COVID problem,

      • be FULLY OPEN & HONEST with the Australian electorate about the COVID problem - communicate better

      • acknowledge the current short-falls in the existing plans AND

      • have a plan to fix those short-falls - and be working to fix those short-comings with the highest priority.

    • What is the problem?  Why are they not doing that?

PM bets on AstraZeneca for under-50s - and is becoming more receptive to non-CBD quarantine centres  28/May/21

  • https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/pm-bets-on-astrazeneca-for-under-50s-20210528-p57vya

  • The Morrison government ... is set to formally approve a $200 million-plus, purpose built quarantine facility for Melbourne, as pressure builds in the wake of Victoria’s seven-day lockdown.

  • The (current Victorian Indian variant) outbreak has accelerated consideration of alternative quarantine proposals, and the federal government is close to approving a purpose-built quarantine facility for Melbourne (29/4/21) to supplement hotel quarantine.  Lindsay Fox’s Avalon airport is firming as the frontrunner (28/5/21) for a model which, Mr Hunt said, could be used across the country.

  • The federal government has resisted a Queensland proposal for a privately-funded camp in Toowoomba, insisting that any purpose-built state site needs to meet strict criteria, which includes having a workforce, as well as being close to a major hospital and an airport on an international flight route.

  • Victoria’s acting Premier, James Merlino, said on Friday that both the state’s proposals - the Avalon quarantine facility and one north of Melbourne at Mickleham - had been given the initial green light, although the federal government was negotiating to avoid being left to fund the full cost of the facilities.

  • https://www.afr.com/politics/fox-s-avalon-in-box-seat-for-quarantine-contest-20210528-p57w07  28/5/21

    • Victoria’s latest outbreak  (26/5/21) stems from the leak of the virus from a hotel in South Australia. It represents the 17th such leak across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in the past six months, sparking criticism that a federal overhaul of the hotel quarantine system has been too slow.

Interesting summary of what has gone wrong re the Federal government's COVID strategy - Senator Kate Gallagher