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PM promises $2bn to secure 100 million mRNA jabs

Peter Switzer
24 March 2022

You know there’s a pre-election Budget a week away when you see $2bn promised by the Prime Minister to secure 100 million mRNA jabs under a 10-year plan to pandemic proof the nation. However, given the criticism the Government copped for being overcommitted to the ‘wrong’ vaccine in 2020, you can see why the PM isn’t taking any chances.

I’d be surprised if Labor wouldn’t support us being long vaccines going forward, with concerns about this new strain of the Coronavirus — BA.2. This isn’t just a threat to health but a threat to the economy, the operation of businesses, the provision of jobs and inevitably the state of the Budget, whose deficit has blown out because of spending that rescued the economy with the first national lockdown in March 2020.

This is how 7NEWS.com.au reported the latest on the virus: “A subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is leading to a new wave of COVID-19 infections across Australia and the world. Cases in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, across Asia and other countries are soaring, driven by this very contagious coronavirus strain.”

Even if this is the usual negative exaggeration we’ve come to expect from news outlets nowadays, in an era where grabbing eyes is crucial for assessing success in the media, our recent history lessons tell us governments can go into lockdown when we least expect it.

And the business press is just as jumpy, with CNBC running with the headline: 'Omicron’s "stealth" subvariant BA.2 could go "wild" in Europe before going global, top epidemiologist says'.

With Covid-19 cases across the country soaring to almost 62,000 new infections on Wednesday, The Australian’s Geoff Chambers reported: “Ahead of next Tuesday’s budget, the Prime Minister will travel to Melbourne on Thursday to announce the vaccine hub agreement with Moderna and the Victorian government, locking in long-term mRNA jab supplies.”

This comes as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation met to finalise approval for a fourth jab ahead of winter.

Sure, $2bn looks like a lot of money, and it is, but it will be spent over 10 years and vaccines have become the ‘go to’ risk management play leaders can’t ignore if you want your economy to function, and, importantly, to stay open!

Moderna will construct a facility and manufacture millions of Covid-19, influenza and respiratory mRNA vaccines from 2024, which means the outlay from the public purse will also create jobs. The pre-election guess on jobs created is 500 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs but no one can really test these numbers.

Frankly, I don’t care because this is a sensible innovation and looks to be bi-partisan, with the PM and Labor Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, getting in on the act of announcing this new and vital business for the latter leader’s state.

One other positive message out of The Australian’s story was Dan Andrews calling “for calm, despite seeing case numbers in the state jump by more than 10,000 in 24 hours”.

There looks to be an appetite from leaders — both Federal and State — to test out the proposition that, “we have to learn to live with the virus” and not just shut everything down.

This is an important test where I suspect death rates and the impact on the hospital systems of this new strain will determine whether we have to brace ourselves for more threats to the economy, business profits and jobs from virus-created lockdowns.

If that happens, it won’t be good for stock prices except for those businesses that benefit from caged consumers ordering stuff online.

Let’s hope we don’t have to see that again.

If spending $2bn helps us avoid such disastrous circumstances, well, spend Scotty, spend! And ditto Albo, if he ends up being our next PM.

This is beyond politics — it’s vital economics determining the future of businesses and jobs, and it’s for the benefit of mental health as well!

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