Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

4:29 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make a contribution to this MPI on the government's failure to deliver on the vaccine rollout in an effective and timely manner. This is the rollout that wasn't a race and now is a race. In particular, it's a race for the government to try and justify their slowness in this and to try and roll back what we were having a race about in the first place.

As delta becomes the dominant variant in Australia, we are seeing more and more young people getting and transmitting COVID. It's clear that the virus is finding a way to infect younger groups—which is, in fact, what was expected of mutations of the virus and of the new variants. While the risk of death is low for younger people, it's evident that if more younger people become infected, more of them will develop more serious illness and, potentially, die. Many may also go on to experience long COVID. We don't know what impacts long COVID will have on young people in particular, and whether it will be with them all their lives.

Today Dr Kerry Chant said:

We are seeing a number of childcare centre outbreaks and I think we have given advice if you can keep your children home safely please do so. … children can in many ways transmit between themselves.

We don't have a clear picture of the long-term impacts of COVID on children. Scientists are racing to find the answer. But why would we want to take a risk and expose young people and children to COVID in the first place? Modelling by the Doherty institute clearly shows the devastating consequences of not including kids under 16 in our vaccination targets. It makes a number of predictions based on us reaching 70 per cent vaccination coverage for over 16s: it predicts that 350,000 children under 16 would get infected with COVID, 3,000 children under 16 would be admitted to hospital with COVID, and 280 children under 16 would be admitted to ICU. Nobody in this country wants to see that. The reason these figures are so high is that the government has excluded kids from our vaccination targets. It's absolutely essential that we include kids in our vaccination targets. The Grattan Institute actually included young people under 16 in their models.

We need to sound the alarm bells about the risks the government is taking by only aiming to vaccinate 70 per cent of our population over the age of 16, which is actually 56 per cent of the whole population. We need to make sure our vaccination program is covering young people under the age of 16. It's absolutely critical to ensure that we get effective vaccination of the whole population. It's another failure of this program that the government is not more actively pursuing vaccinating children under the age of 16. This is the reason I've moved a motion for an order for the production of documents. We need to understand what the brief was to the Doherty institute. Why aren't people under the age of 16 being included in our vaccination targets? They should be, and it's outrageous that they're not. (Time expired)


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