What I Learned About Australia’s Lackluster Vaccination Effort From the Latest Covid ‘Hot Spot’ in Sydney

He was so happy in fact that it made me realize what was missing from the public debate. Enthusiasm for the promise of a vaccinated community — that’s what he exuded. It’s what animated our conversation even at 10:30 p.m., and it is what Australian officials, from the prime minister on down, have somehow lost the ability to conjure up.

Where are the officials and celebrities, I wondered, rallying “Team Australia,” asking everyone to pitch in by embracing vaccinations? Where is the cheer squad shouting “how great is this,” crowing about how vaccines can bring countries and the world back together?

On Thursday, when I watched public health officials in Sydney talk about the latest outbreak at their daily news conference, I did not pick up on anything that resembled Andrew’s encouragement, optimism or “we’re all in this together, get a vaccine” vibe.

All I heard was the same old, same old. Follow health advice. Get tested, get isolated.

The vaccines came up only in the context of a new decision to change the age range for those who should be using the AstraZeneca vaccine from 50 to 60 and above. Officials, looking dour, signaled that it was being done in large part because a woman who was 52 recently died, the second death in Australia believed to be linked to the AstraZeneca jab.

The decision to curtail the AstraZeneca vaccine will further delay Australia’s already weak inoculation rollout. Whether the narrower range is the right call or not, I’m not equipped to say. But my chat with Andrew made me wonder how often the public also hears the context.

According to the most recent government report, about 3.6 million AstraZeneca doses have been given in Australia, and there have been 31 confirmed cases of blood clots, and 10 probable cases. Of those, 23 have been discharged and are recovering.

In other words, the vast majority of people receiving the vaccine — and Pfizer’s as well — are better off with the shots than without.

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