ABC health commentator Norman Swan has been slammed for saying Sydneysiders doing their civic duty and lining up to get a Covid-19 vaccine amid the city’s raging Delta outbreak are ‘guinea pigs’.
The GP-turned-journalist claimed on ABC Breakfast on Tuesday morning that this was the first time a government had tried to stop a disease outbreak with vaccines.
He was not claiming that the vaccines were experimental – only that the government’s strategy of using vaccination to control the outbreak was untested.
Disease expert and former deputy chief health officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said vaccines are used to stop outbreaks all around the world
Dr Coatsworth (pictured) said: ‘Rapid vaccination during an epidemic is part of epidemic control’
‘I don’t think that this has been tried anywhere else in the world where you’re trying to use vaccination to curve an outbreak,’ he said.
‘And in a sense, the residents of New South Wales, or Greater Sydney, are guinea pigs.’
But disease expert and Australia’s former deputy chief health officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said vaccines are used to stop outbreaks all around the world – and even pointed to his own field experience in Africa.
‘No, Dr Swan, they are not guinea pigs. I vaccinated during measles in Chad in 2005,’ he wrote in a response on Twitter.
‘Rapid vaccination during an epidemic is part of epidemic control. And it’s what every other country has done with Covid-19. Restrictions plus rapid vaccines works.’
Residents queue up for their dose of the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Homebush vaccination centre in Sydney on Monday
Norman Swan’s false prediction
In March 2020, Dr Swan claimed Australia would soon suffer ‘70,000-80,000 cases per day’
He warned the country was only ’14-20 days behind’ Italy which was being ravaged by the virus.
His prediction was false as Australia suffered only 103 deaths before Victoria’s second wave in June 2020.
Dozens of Twitter users also criticised Dr Swan, pointing out that the UK, the US and other countries rapidly rolled out vaccines earlier this year to control Covid-19 outbreaks.
‘Thanks for calling out this nonsense,’ wrote one user.
‘What an absurd comment from Swan,’ wrote another.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the ABC for comment.
Sydney recorded 199 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, taking the outbreak to 3,832 cases.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged that some restrictions could ease when six million jabs have been given out in the state, meaning 50 per cent of adults will be fully vaccinated.
But the relaxation also depends on case numbers being reduced dramatically.
It comes after Scott Morrison said lockdowns may still be needed to control Covid-19 after 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
Modelling released on Tuesday showed that if an outbreak of the Delta strain lasted for six months then 1,984 Australians would die if 70 per cent of the population were vaccinated and 1,281 would died if 80 per cent were double-jabbed.
Mr Morrison said that scenario wouldn’t happen because state governments would re-introduce restrictions regardless of vaccination rates.
Doherty Institute modelling (pictured) released on Tuesday showed that if an outbreak of the Delta strain lasted for six months with only ‘baseline restrictions’ then 1,984 Australians would die if 70 per cent of the population were vaccinated and 1,281 would died if 80 per cent were fully-jabbed
‘I have no doubt that if such a scenario were to eventuate, then there are additional measures that would be taken to avert those types of outcomes,’ he said.
‘In the same way if we had a very aggressive flu strain that was moving in a similar direction that would have similar results then obviously governments would take steps.
‘But the likelihood of that occurring under an 80 per cent vaccination rate or indeed the other figures you have there at 70 per cent is obviously very different.’
The Prime Minister said an 80 per cent vaccination rate would allow the nation to treat Covid-19 like flu and only require restrictions to prevent too many deaths instead of stopping infections.
‘There will always be infectious diseases resulting in hospitalisation, and indeed in death,’ he said.
‘That is something that happens, sadly, each and every day, that is the world we live in, and I think Australians understand that.’
The modelling by the Doherty Institute (pictured) said that a 70 per cent vaccination rate could be achieved by October 18 if AstraZeneca doses are given four weeks apart and 80 per cent could be vaccinated by November 8. If doses are given 12 weeks apart then the latest date an 80 per cent rate is predicted to be reached is November 22
Mr Morrison said that once 80 per cent of population have been vaccinated than lockdowns are ‘almost completely unnecessary’.
The modelling by the Doherty Institute said that a 70 per cent vaccination rate could be achieved by October 18 if AstraZeneca doses are given four weeks apart and 80 per cent could be vaccinated by November 8.
If doses are given 12 weeks apart then the latest date an 80 per cent rate is predicted to be reached is November 22.
Under Mr Morrison’s four-stage re-opening plan, a state or territory can move to remove the need for restrictions when the national vaccination rate hits 70 per cent and the rate in that state also hits 70 per cent.
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival