Australia has said it has secured access to one of the upcoming coronavirus vaccines, the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine, and will make it free for its 25 million-strong population.
Moreover, the country's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, stated early on Wednesday that around 95% of citizens should be inoculated in order to curb the spread of the virus — stating that the vaccine should be made compulsory, as per the BBC's reporting, but later said it wouldn't, in fact, be compulsory.
The country is debating how best to proceed.
Aside from medical exemptions, Morrison believes that all citizens of Australia should be given the upcoming Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus. In a statement to national radio station 3AW in Melbourne, Morrison said that getting the vaccine "should be as mandatory as you can possibly make it."
"There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis," he explained.
JUST IN: Australia's Prime Minister says coronavirus vaccine will be compulsory, except for those with medical exemptions.— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) August 18, 2020
Naturally, Morrison expected a backlash from certain groups of the population, which he anticipated by mentioning "We're talking about a pandemic that has destroyed the global economy and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world."
However, later in the day, Morrison mentioned to 2GB that there were no plans to make the vaccine compulsory, as per the Guardian's reporting.
“It is not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK? It’s not compulsory. There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia,” he further explained.
“There are no things that force people to do things. What we want to achieve is as much vaccination as we possibly can should the vaccine actually prove successful and get through those trials. I mean, Australia has one of the best records in the world of getting high rates of immunization.”
The PM further explained there would be "no compulsory vaccine but there will be a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance as usual".
The Australian government has yet to make a concrete decision on the matter.
If this decision does go forward, the government estimates that around 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to stop the virus from continually spreading and that it would be free for all to get.
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It's a tricky one as questions around personal freedoms arise, and fervent anti-vaxxers question the ethics behind these comments.
So far, Australia has registered around 450 deaths linked to the coronavirus, with most coming from the state of Victoria, which is currently under a state of disaster with a strict lockdown.
Even though numbers of infected persons declined in the past week, the number of total registered active cases at the moment sits at over 7,000, as per the BBC.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the five ones currently being trialed and tested, could be ready as soon as early next year, with mass production heading out to nations a few months afterward.