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Scott Morrison complacent about COVID-19 anti-vaxxers

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shown no concern over the number of people refusing to be vaccinated (Image by Dan Jensen)

Since the Resolve Strategic Poll revealed earlier this week that up to 30% of Australians are unlikely to accept the COVID-19 vaccination, calls for a national advertising campaign encouraging the reluctant to change their minds have increased.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to the success of any such campaign is the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who claims to be ‘not overly troubled’ by the staggering number who may choose to remain unvaccinated and has dismissed concerns about the survey results, saying:

“There’s plenty of time to have the chat with the others who are a bit hesitant. That’s alright, it’s a free country...”

This bizarre statement seems calculated to soothe and validate those who are refusing the vaccination. It’s profoundly disturbing to hear the Prime Minister take this position. Has he been advised that many of the hesitant comprise his base?

And is there really “plenty of time” when, without widespread vaccination, Australia could be vulnerable to a third COVID-19 wave at any time? 

It surely is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to do everything he can to encourage the reluctant to change their minds, not to comfort them by normalising a hesitancy that could well lead to a disastrous third wave of infection.

Would Mr Morrison put his political interests before the welfare of the entire country?

It is difficult to see how any national advertising campaign could succeed, given the Federal Government’s expressed lack of interest and concern. Indeed, who would run such a campaign if not the Federal Government and, given its attitude, why would it?  

There is no reconciling Morrison’s lack of urgency with a national advertising campaign designed to persuade the reluctant to step up.

Is this not in itself one of the most bizarre predicaments a country could find itself in?

Morrison has from the start relied on low infection rates in Australia to justify his tardiness in ordering vaccines, ensuring supply, failing to diversify and the ongoing slow rollout. A combination of complacency and incompetence might explain this serious failure to adequately respond early on, a failure that has encouraged many others to minimise both the gravity of the pandemic and the risks of a large part of the population remaining unvaccinated.

There is also the question of the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs, shared by others in his Cabinet, that everything is God’s will and part of God’s plan. At the very least, belief in a divine plan might well tamp down any sense of the need for urgent human intervention.

Morrison has form. His slow response to the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20 also beggared belief.

The Prime Minister’s current position appears to be: “We have no community transmission therefore there is no rush to vaccinate. We understand if you refuse the vaccine because it’s a free country. We will not open the borders until other countries have COVID-19 under control.”

In other words, Australia will leave it to the rest of the world to subdue the virus rather than ensure the immediate vaccination of as many Australians as possible. If this sounds insane, it is.

Almost daily, there are media reports of GPs who cannot obtain enough doses to meet the demand for vaccination at their clinics. Senior Federal Cabinet Minister David Littleproud insisted that it’s good enough that only 4% of people in disability care have so far been vaccinated, despite being in phase 1A of the rollout.

Littleproud used the now-standard Federal Government justification for this neglect:

“The fact we haven't had cases here in Australia to the extent of everywhere else in the world, we can make sure that we can do this rollout properly with confidence and instil confidence in the community in every sector.”

Given the attitude of our Federal Government, it is hardly surprising that 30% of Australians may decide to refuse the offer of vaccination. If there is no sense of urgency at the top, you can’t expect it will be present in the community. If there is complacency at the top, there will be complacency in the community. If your Prime Minister tells you there’s no hurry to get the jab, you can’t be blamed for accepting that advice.

Those calling for a national advertising campaign need first to tackle the Federal Government’s apathy towards the health and wellbeing of its citizens. We are in the untenable situation of being controlled by a political class who, in the midst of a pandemic, refuses to put our interests first.

There is no point at all in demanding this campaign from a government that clearly doesn't see the need for it. In the meantime, we have no hope of achieving herd immunity if 30% of our population refuses the vaccine. We will remain unacceptably vulnerable to infection. We will not be able to safely re-open our borders.

We are on this destructive path for one reason only. The Morrison Government has chosen it for us. The reasons for that choice are many and varied and none of them are to do with the welfare of those they govern.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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