US top doctor's Covid warning to 'vulnerable' Australia

·Associate News Editor
·3-min read

While praising our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the US's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci says Australia should follow the lead of his virus-plagued nation by throwing everything at its vaccine rollout.

Dr Fauci hailed President Joe Biden's response since taking office, while recalling the difficulty of having to publicly contradict former president Donald Trump who oversaw the US becoming the most infected nation in the world with more than 560,000 deaths to date.

"President Biden wants science to rule," he told UNSW's Kirby Institute via video link on Wednesday night.

Dr Anthony Fauci addressing the UNSW Kirby Institute.
Dr Anthony Fauci said while Australia has had one of the best responses to the pandemic globally, it cannot become complacent. Source: UNSW

"He made [the vaccine rollout] the very, very top priority."

Dr Fauci said the US's push to rollout the vaccine from as many different directions as possible has seen the nation capable of pumping out a record four million vaccines in a single day.

"[Biden] made equity a very important part of this. What he has done for example is open up community vaccine centres, get vaccines to the pharmacies, develop mobile units to go out to get the people who are in poorly accessible areas," he said.

And the vast number of people deployed to administer the jab – which includes retired physicians, military personnel, nurses and medical students – has facilitated the rapid rollout, according to Dr Fauci.

Dr Fauci says Australia 'vulnerable' until vaccination

The Morrison government has faced criticism for its vaccine rollout which has fallen well behind schedule.

Yet Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stressed Australia finds itself in a position few other countries are in with no known community transmission, meaning safety and precision will take priority in the rollout.

Dr Fauci warned nations who may have avoided widespread infection will remain vulnerable until the majority of its population is vaccinated.

People wearing masks outside Melbourne's Flinders Street Station.
Australia must not let its guard down, Dr Fauci has warned. Source: Getty Images

"As long as there's the dynamic of virus replication somewhere, there will always be the threat of the emergence of variants, which could then come back," he said.

"And even though most of the rest of the world is vaccinated, it can threaten the world that has felt that they've controlled the virus, when they're still quite vulnerable."

Australia has so far administered a mere 1.3 million vaccines, a figure well below the four million vaccines it had originally predicted to be rolled out by the end of March.

Dr Fauci, as he did in October during a similar event for the University of Melbourne, hailed Australia's response to the pandemic, praising the nation's unity when it came to following restrictions and Covid prevention measures.

"You had the capability and the uniformity of your citizens that when you shut down, you really shut down very effectively," he said.

In contrast, he said the US was plagued by an "inconsistent response".

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