A level of testy discourse should be expected between our different levels of government, but the COVID vaccine rollout has shown a new immaturity in federal-state relations.
At stake is the health of those who might need the vaccine most; highlighting how our politicians are now happy to use something as challenging as a pandemic to score a few political points.
The latest example is the different advice being handed out in some quarters about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In Queensland this week, those managing anaphylaxis were told to delay the vaccine; the number of allergic reactions in two states warranting a wait-and-see for those who might need it, but were at risk of it.
That was the state advice. But only a few hours later, the federal government had completely different advice: do not delay.
And then the Queensland government changed its mind, leaving those in the vaccine queues bewildered.
Was there legitimate confusion? Or was it a case of ‘here’s the chance to win a few political points’?
The latter seems more likely given the history of squabbling between our state and federal governments, and the ongoing chaos around the vaccine rollout.
That chaos risks people’s trust in a vaccine that could provide the game-changer for jobs and travel, as well as people’s ongoing health.
On Wednesday, at one GP’s surgery – just like others across the country – the wait ‘on hold’ was long, with a flood of inquiries about booking in for the vaccine. Many of those were older voters, with a host of health vulnerabilities.
This columnist witnessed six inquiries in just over a minute at one suburban GP office, highlighting the fact that the community is onside, and willing to front up for the jab.
That should be celebrated given the loud ignorance being trumpeted by the anti-vaxxers and the non-compliance in some other countries.
But the government, at state and federal levels, is risking that support for the vaccine by its shoddy and ill-disciplined rollout plans. And according to the advice of some experts, they need to get it right before more deadly variants of the virus make any big inroads into our communities.
Perhaps we can forgive one-off errors, like unqualified doctors, over-doses, and calls by government MPs to halt the vaccines. And perhaps we can also ignore the quarrels about whether it should be doctors or pharmacists or both who administer the vaccine.
Perhaps we can dismiss GP surgeries, also, for promising the jab to existing patients too.
But the advantage we have in limiting the spread of the pandemic will be whittled away unless the governments stop playing politics and provide a seamless rollout of the vaccine.
We’ve had months to get this right, and it seems doctors and patients are still in the dark about when and where they can access it, vaccine targets have come and gone, and supplies remain uncertain.
The Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners are warning that the wait time for a vaccine might stretch to weeks.
This is not rocket science. And if our governments continue to struggle with delivering a vaccine, they should call in the expertise of those who might be able to do it.
But expertise is probably not the problem. It’s politics.
Just imagine, for a moment, if our politicians worked together on this; if they put the health of voters above the health of their poll standing.