Vaccination rates fall…’Quick, let’s vaccinate more people!’

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A shallow, disingenuous report from the Grattan Institute.

The Grattan (‘We change the nation – for good’) Institute, has released a shallow, disingenuous report calling for the government to spend lots of money, because vaccination rates are not high enough, according to them.

Not once in this report is any consideration given to the personal needs or wishes of individual Australian patients who are the ultimate targets of the recommendations. The recommendations focus solely on getting more people vaccinated, for more illness or conditions, more often.

The report’s authors are either ignorant of, or wilfully blind to, the concept of free will. So much of the language and framing of the report bends in this direction, with many examples where ‘the government’ is exhorted to take this or that action in order to bring about a behaviour change in people which results in more ‘jabs’. Even the use of the term ‘jabs’ is a sneering shorthand and betrays a desire to normalise through colloquialism the idea of blindly accepting participation in a clinical trial of a novel gene-based therapy.

The overview sets the scene. There is no evidence that the authors feel any compunction about using manipulative techniques, like bald assertions, emotional blackmail and appeals to authority:

Each year, vaccines save thousands of lives and prevent countless sick days. But millions of older Australians at high risk of serious illness are missing out.

Then the good cop routine, with a side of gaslighting:

The pandemic has left many of us sick of vaccination, confused about which jabs we need, misled by misinformation, or complacent about the risks of not being vaccinated.

Sick ‘of’ vaccination, or sick from vaccination? Now it’s our fault, because we’re ‘confused’, or ‘misled’ or ‘complacent’.

COVID vaccination rates have plunged. At the start of winter 2023, 2.5 million people over 65 weren’t up-to-date with their vaccinations – two million more than a year earlier.

Again, our fault for not being ‘up-to-date’ – a term which is imbued with more rigour than it deserves.

The tone-deaf nature of this kind of language is astonishing. But the report isn’t really addressed to those who are not ‘up-to-date’. It’s a rent-seeking sales pitch to those who hold the treasury purse strings. Nothing more. Here is a list of the demands for taxpayer money that appear throughout the report.

  • Supporting GP clinics, pharmacies, and aged care providers to improve, with $10 million a year, for five years. (p4)
  • Piloting Community Health Workers across six PHNs, with $750,000 a year, for five years. (p4)
  • States should develop tailored local initiatives with communities that face the biggest barriers to vaccination. Federal and state governments should contribute equally to $20 million a year, for five years. (p4)
  • Funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation vaccination programs should be increased by $10 million a year. (p4)
  • A budget of $22 million for two years (for a new Australian Centre for Disease Control – Ed.) should be used to raise adult vaccine awareness and acceptance, and to re-set the adult vaccine narrative. (p29)
  • Across the PHNs and the states, our total proposed funding is $150 million over five years, for improving access to mainstream services and for tailored initiatives to reach persistently low-vaccination communities.
  • We therefore recommend a budget of $3 million per campaign-month for COVID and flu, for three months in each of two years, because the campaign has to reach a wider and potentially less-engaged audience than for childhood vaccines. (p54)
  • To raise awareness of shingles and pneumococcal vaccines, we recommend a budget of $2 million for two years’ worth of a two-month campaigns, equivalent to twice the spending per month on adolescent vaccines, to target a broader audience that is not easily reached through school-based vaccination programs. (p54)

Apart from the funding recommendations, the language is the thing that betrays the authors’ utilitarian view of humans, as if we are so many cattle to be herded through the crush with ever-increasing, and frankly unregulated, frequency. To wit:

The federal government should introduce vaccination ‘surges’, resetting community attitudes and making seasonal vaccination easier by:

  • Making vaccination intervals flexible for high-risk people, so more people are eligible for vaccination during surges.

What? Just tinker with the intervals so that it doesn’t matter when you get your next shot?  They have dropped all pretence to there being some sort of valid reason for a given interval.  The underlying motive could not be clearer – more shots for the sake of more shots, and more money, of course.

Only the most fleeting acknowledgement of the intrusions into our personal lives finds its way into this report. Lamenting the drop in vaccination rate, the authors write:

In December 2021, more than nine in 10 high-risk adults had been vaccinated for COVID in the previous six months. At that time, a range of vaccine mandates and restrictions were in place. By the end of February 2023, the share of high-risk people who were vaccinated in the last six months had crashed to below one in 10 (Figure 2.2).

To borrow from Saint Greta, “How dare they!” Blithely dismissing lockdowns and the devastation they inflicted on personal wellbeing, livelihood, and lives, and the outright coercion to give up bodily autonomy on pain of keeping your job, as “a range of vaccine mandates and restrictions” is insulting in the extreme. But they still hold out hope that we can be made to suffer like that again:

It is probably unrealistic to hope to repeat the high vaccination rates achieved during the worst of the pandemic. Those levels of vaccination were supported by vaccine mandates and unprecedented public health restrictions, and came in the context of surges of hospitalisations and deaths from COVID, and constant media coverage.

“Supported by vaccine mandates” is so disingenuous.  It implies that mandates were a good thing.  Mandates were a bad thing, and people have voted with their feet ever since they were lifted.

In their search for the mystifying reasons why people have shunned the wonder products that are so safe and effective, the authors propose a few reasons:

There are many reasons people don’t get vaccinated. Barriers can be trivial (forgetfulness), logistical (convenience), financial (not being paid for any time off work from side-effects), or even ideological (misinformation and conspiracy theories).

But they leave out a couple of big ones. How about prudence, for a start? Why accept a rushed experimental drug when there are no long term studies, by definition? For another, why trust a TGA which is funded 96% by industry?

This is a bureaucrat’s report lobbying for a bureaucratic gravy train. The patient is nowhere to be seen or heard in the entire 58 pages. New administrative organs are proposed. Experts will be required. New agreements between federal and state governments are demanded. Millions of taxpayer dollars will be needed.

The Agreement should also establish a Vaccine Implementation Committee, to coordinate effort, troubleshoot problems, and evaluate progress. This committee should be made up of experts, and representatives from federal and state governments and the Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC). (p24)

For bureaucrats, ‘targets’ are the stuff of dreams. Wet dreams in this case. They want to measure everything, and reward those who hit the targets. Conflict of interest, anyone? Get more vaccinations done in pharmacies? Sure – but who is better placed to advise a patient of risks and benefits?

Pharmacy vaccination should be continued, with red tape removed

The federal government has recently committed to four years of funding support for pharmacists who deliver free COVID and NIP vaccines to eligible people.

This makes it much easier to organise adult vaccines, increasing the number of locations where people can get vaccines by about 60 per cent. Increasing the pool of vaccinators also means people can more easily get vaccinated by someone who speaks their language, or who (sic) they already trust. By the end of 2022 nearly half of all COVID vaccinations were delivered in pharmacies. (p30)

The word ‘adverse’ appears only 4 times in the whole report. The most glaring example here:

Public insurance could cover other vaccination costs

Although vaccines on the National Immunisation Program are free up-front, people might worry about the cost of adverse reactions.
The government should evaluate whether Australia needs a vaccine injury compensation scheme, like 24 other countries already have. These schemes help cover costs if someone has a moderate or severe reaction to a vaccine. (p30)

No – the cost is not what people worry about.  It’s the pain, disability, and death that people worry about.

I could go on about this report. But I think you get the drift. If you’ve got a budgie, download this report and print it out, and put it in the bottom of the cage. It’ll give the budgie a laugh.

This article was first published on Richard’s substack here.

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  • Richard Kelly

    Richard Kelly is a retired business analyst, married with three adult children, one dog, devastated by the way his home city of Melbourne was laid waste. Convinced justice will be served, one day.

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