Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on March 18, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.
Quinn Rooney | Getty Images
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backtracked on comments he made saying that he planned to make coronavirus vaccinations as mandatory as possible.
“Can I be really clear to everyone? It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK?” Morrison said Wednesday on Australian radio station 2GB.
Morrison thought there had been a bit of an “overreaction” to the comments he made earlier that day on Australian radio station 3AW, when he stated that he expected to make a vaccine “as mandatory as you can possibly make it.”
He said there would be “a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance as usual.”
The Australian leader has since said, however, that there are no mechanisms in place to ensure coronavirus vaccinations are compulsory for Australian citizens. “We can’t hold someone down and make them take it,” Morrisson told 2GB later in the day.
He also sought to stress that any potential vaccine would be required to pass all trials and “be as safe as any other” existing immunizations in Australia before being administered.
‘Get Australia back to normal’
Earlier that day on 3AW, Morrison had suggested there would only be exemptions on medical grounds.
He argued that there needed to be the “most extensive and comprehensive response” to the coronavirus in order “to get Australia back to normal.”
Australia has had 23,993 reported cases of Covid-19 and 450 deaths, according to the latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Morrison said he was “used to” resistance campaigning from anti-vaxxers, as the minister who established “no jab, no play,” which is legislation requiring children to be immunized to be enrolled in childcare.
The coronavirus vaccine would be given to Australians for free, Morrison said, and he hoped a vaccine would be ready early next year.
The Australian government announced Wednesday that it had secured a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which is behind the University of Oxford vaccine. “Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, if it proves successful,” the government stated.
Under the deal, the vaccine would be manufactured in Australia, with Morrison expecting the production process to take “about a month or two.”
Morrison suggested that while the Oxford vaccine was currently expected to be ready first, he added that “things can change and we’re not going to put all our eggs in one basket either.”
He said Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s secretary of the department of health, was also advising on other vaccines that the government would support.
In a later statement to reporters, Morrison said he was aiming to get about 95% of the country vaccinated.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the first call for the vaccine would be voluntary and was sure there would be “long queues” to be immunized, adding it would be the “absolute ticket to get back to some sort of normal society and the things we all love and enjoy.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said it is unlikely the federal government would ever make a Covid-19 vaccine compulsory.
“If someone refuses the vaccine in the general public you cannot force someone to take it,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Tuesday, according to Forbes.
In the U.K., Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty recently said that he doubted that a vaccine would become mandatory but said it would be up to ministers to decide on this matter.