Founder of the Virgin empire, Richard Branson has warned that Australia’s economy is being held back by a slow vaccine rollout, stating that Australia risks being left behind the developed world in terms of vaccination numbers.
Speaking with Channel Nine, Richard Branson said that both the Australian population and business sector risks being hampered by a lengthy rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
He said that Australia’s single-most important priority is getting the population vaccinated, so it can re-open its borders and regain exposure to trade and international tourist numbers.
“By now, it’s a small country, I suspect most people should have been vaccinated,” he said.
“If not, it should be the number-one priority of the government, nothing else matters more, to be honest. Because every single business in Australia will be held back. Every single person in Australia will be held back, [and] the economy will suffer.”
“If the government can speed up the vaccination program so everyone is vaccinated, then there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t be able to get opened up,” Branson concluded.
Last week, Virgin Australia’s CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka faced criticism for her call to re-open Australia’s borders, even if it resulted in deaths.
Branson addressed the comments, stating that “I think we’ve all regretted things we’ve said. And I don’t think Jayne is any exception to the rule. She’s made that clear. She’s doing a great job in keeping Virgin Australia going,” Branson added.
In comparison to Branson’s home country, Australia has vaccinated nearly 20 million less people than the UK.
Richard Branson Warns Australia’s Economy is Held Back by Slow Vaccine Rollout
Locally, around 3.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Australians, while the UK has administered around 23 million vaccines.
The ABC says that “at our current pace of roughly 502,000 doses a week, we can expect to reach the 40 million doses needed to fully vaccinate Australia’s adult population in mid October, 2022.”
The Federal Government has said that supply issues of the AstraZeneca vaccine leaving the European Union has complicated the rollout of the vaccine, as well as changes in official health advice following reports of blood clots in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
As it stands, Pfizer’s vaccine is now the government’s vaccine of choice for Australians aged under 50 years old. Scott Morrison has said that Australia is set to receive more than 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine each week from early October.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has said that recent shipments of vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna will likely see all Australians vaccinated before the end of the year, underpinned by extra deliveries in October.
“There have been many uncertainties in the vaccine rollout to date, and I think we need to continue to be honest that we don’t control every aspect of global supply… or unexpected impacts in relation to health advice that impact the rollout,” he said.
“Discussing how, as the vaccine rollout progresses, we can give greater certainty to Australians in terms of what being vaccinated delivers for them by way of benefits across the country,” he said.