Coronavirus

Australia assumes we'll all be vaccinated by the end of 2021. Can it be done?

Source: SBS News

INTERACTIVE: There was one big assumption included in the federal budget - that all Australians would have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. But the data tells a different story.

Scroll down to see the interactive. 

This week’s federal budget included the assumption that by the end of 2021, all Australian adults would be able to access a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The government’s use of the word assumption is intentional; it has avoided setting a new timeline for the vaccine rollout, and, as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday, betting on anything in the middle of a pandemic is “difficult business”.

But budget estimates have to be based on something, and in the middle of a pandemic, perhaps the most important factor in getting the economy back on track is population-wide vaccination. So the government has cautiously planned for a population-wide vaccination program to be in place by the end of the year.

Asked whether this meant Australians could expect to receive both doses by then, Mr Frydenberg said it was the assumption that all Australians who want the vaccine could get both doses by that date.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared to wind back those comments, stressing that the assumption in the budget was not government policy.

“That is not a policy statement, nor is it a policy commitment of the government … it is a Treasury assumption that has been put in place,” Mr Morrison said during Question Time.

“It is a treasury assumption that has been put in place and it makes no reference, I note, to second doses. It only refers to doses.”

So what does the data say? Drag the end date below to see how many weekly doses Australia needs to be administering to reach its target.

Based on the speed of the rollout so far, it appears unlikely that all Australians will have received their first - let alone second - jab by the end of this year. 

At the current rate, the data suggests population-wide vaccination is more likely to happen in January 2023 - quite a bit later than the government has bargained for. 

Of course, the rollout is likely to speed up as mass vaccination hubs are opened across the country, supply issues are resolved, and Moderna doses become available. But whether that will be enough to get the rollout back on track with the government’s earlier timeline - which has since been scrapped - remains to be seen.

As it stands, more than one million doses would have to be administered each week from now on to hit the 40 million dose target by January 2022. 

People under 18 will not be vaccinated unless advice changes. 

For the government's part, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC on Wednesday he was hopeful the assumption would come to pass if "everything goes according to plan".

"There's no secret there have been two particular setbacks in the vaccine delivery," he said, referring to delayed shipments from Europe and safety concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine for under-50s.

"But the plan is for vaccines available for all Australians by the end of the year". 

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