‘Stop trying to be nice’: Travel bosses slam vaccine delays


The slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine could see Australia left behind, Corporate Travel Management chief executive Jamie Pherous has warned.

The stark calls comes as concerns emerge that local business would be left behind rivals operating in markets where vaccines have been widely administered, with problems spreading beyond exporting.

A wide swath of corporate Australia, stretching beyond the hard-hit tourism and travel sectors, is calling for a faster vaccine rollout to provide greater certainty for investment in the economic recovery.

Mr Pherous said delays in the rollout of the vaccines were now costing Australian business because of the inability to travel, while business travellers in the US and Britain who had been vaccinated were now able to.

"There are other countries whose business people now have a competitive advantage because they can travel," he said.

He said the Morrison government had done a great job in handling the virus so far but it was "falling down at the last hurdle" with the slow rollout.

Mr Pherous called on the federal government to elevate the rollout to an issue of national importance with the appointment of a minister for vaccines and using private sector distribution specialists to oversee the program.

"Australia is going to be left behind," he said.

"If you are vaccinated in the UK and the US you can travel for business without any quarantine.

"If Australia continues to be closed down, we will miss the boat.

"The rest of global trade will start up and we will be left behind."

"They have to stop trying to be nice to everyone and tell people how to get it done (the vaccinations)," he said. "We need to get a good percentage of the population vaccinated to make it work."


Flight Centre chief Graham Turner. Picture: Dan Peled
Flight Centre chief Graham Turner. Picture: Dan Peled

Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner said there was a need to roll out vaccines faster, and identified airports and stadiums as possible injection sites.

Mr Turner said that while there had been supply issues, local manufacturing was now being ramped up, and the most efficient way to administer doses should be the top focus.

"We need to get better at it in Australia and we should be looking at countries where it has been more seamless, including the UK and the US," he said.

"It will be vital for international travel that we get the elderly and vulnerable vaccinated first."

Mr Turner said once that was done and there was adequate contact tracing further lockdowns should not be necessary.

Former Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris, who is also an adviser to the federal government's COVID-19 Commission, again hit out at Australia's slow rollout and urged the federal government to draw on private sector expertise in stepping up distribution and accessing other supplies from offshore.

Mr Liveris argues that Australia has been complacent about rolling out its vaccine program and not moved quickly enough to secure several sources of supply.

He said he was "gobsmacked" that the vaccine rollout in Australia appeared to be reliant on distribution by GP practices around the country and not large community centres as in the US.

The federal government needed to appoint high-level distribution experts to oversee the distribution of what supplies were available in Australia. Meanwhile, the private sector needed to directly contact global pharmaceutical companies such as Johnston & Johnson and Pfizer to get extra supplies.

"Australia has been over-reliant on local production and on the CSL vaccine," he said.

"We didn't hedge our bets like other countries."

"Our distribution should be more finetuned to using community centres," he said.

"Why are we restricting it to just GP clinics?" He said there should be co-operation between the private and public sectors at the federal government level to help secure more sources of supply. "The time for complacency is over," he said.


‘The time for complacency is over,” says Andrew Liveris. Picture: Britta Campion
‘The time for complacency is over,” says Andrew Liveris. Picture: Britta Campion

Property Council of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison warned about the implications of running behind the rest of the world and called for a broader range of entrants to be allowed into Australia.

"While the vaccine rollout is likely to catch up as domestic production ramps up, we will still be behind other advanced economies, which will then be able to resume normal international travel well before Australia, to our significant disadvantage," Mr Morrison said.

TTF Australia chief executive Margy Osmond noted the broader economic impacts of a slow rollout which is hitting as JobKeeper ends, which "means that parts of the tourism industry are without dedicated ongoing support while most international borders remain closed".

Platinum Asset Management's healthcare fund manager, Bianca Ogden, backed calls for the federal government to diversify its vaccine sources. The German-born virologist said some might not want to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca given concerns about its links to blood clots.

Originally published as 'Stop trying to be nice': Travel bosses slam vaccine delays

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