The United States’ COVID-19 recovery has passed major milestones this week as Australia struggles to complete even its first phase.
The hard-hit US met one hopeful milestone with half of its adults now having had their first vaccination, while from Monday all over-18s were eligible to get their shot.
The positive news from America — the world’s worst-hit country — is a major win for President Joe Biden, who overnight confirmed the country had passed 200 million vaccinations on day 92 of his term.
Next week, Mr Biden announced the next phase of his operation in what the White House is dubbing “the ground game” — vaccinating all those over 16.
The jab will be available for the over 16s from next Monday.
“Our objective is to reach everyone — everyone over the age of 16 in America,” Mr Biden said.
“Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, if you are 16 or older, you are now eligible for a free COVID vaccine shot, and we have the vaccine to deliver.
“To put it simply: If you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer.”
Mr Biden bragged 80 per cent of American seniors — aged 65 and older — have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced Australians aged between 50-69 will now be able to receive the COVID-19 jab … from May.
Just 1.72 million Australians have been vaccinated so far. ABC analysis this week said it could take up to August 2023 until the entire population is vaccinated.
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Last month, we fell 85 per cent short of the Prime Minister’s initial own target while according to latest Our World data, Australia has delivered just 6.2 doses per 100 people.
Over 50s who are not already eligible to be vaccinated will now be able to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at respiratory clinics from May 3, and at GPs from May 17.
Yet two months into Australia’s rollout, many aged care homes remain unvaccinated.
The PM announced teenagers as young as 16 will also now be eligible to be vaccinated as early as this year because the preferred vaccine for under 50s – Pfizer – is approved for older teenagers. But that’s unlikely until the end of the year.
Previously, the youngest age you could be vaccinated under Australia’s rollout plan was 18.
Australia has struggled immensely over its COVID-19 vaccine rollout despite low case numbers in comparison to the rest of the world.
Shipment delays from overseas were an initial bump in the road but the late night news earlier this month that Australians under the age of 50 should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine and instead be offered an alternative where possible threw the plan into disarray.
The process of vaccinating under 50s will not commence until all residential aged care patients are vaccinated.
It was originally expected to be completed by Easter but is now estimated to be finalised by the end of May.
Mr Biden has faced some difficulty, though.
On Wednesday, he urged employers in the country to offer paid leave for their staff to receive the vaccine and any sick leave that may ensue after the fact as figures indicate younger Americans aren’t as keen to receive the vaccine.
“One concern I’ve heard from so many Americans is that they can’t afford to take the time off to get vaccinated or lose a day’s work because they are feeling slightly under the weather after their shot.
“I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need, with pay,” he said.
“No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfil their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.”
Elsewhere, Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Germany is expecting to open up COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults in June at the latest, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Thursday.
Despite vaccine rollouts in many countries, COVID-19 surges are putting immense pressure on authorities from Germany to Uruguay, with no end in sight for a pandemic that has claimed more than three million lives worldwide.
India has taken over the United States for the record highest daily increase of coronavirus cases, with 314,835 in just one day.
The United States previously held the record — 297,430 new cases in one day — in January, though its tally has since fallen sharply.
Despite the positive outlook, Mr Biden warned Americans the worst might not be over.
“If we let up now and stop being vigilant, this virus will erase the progress we’ve already achieved, the sacrifices we’ve made, the lives that been put on hold, the loved ones who’ve been taken from us, the time we’re never going to get back.,” he said.
While America’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci praised Australia’s initial response into lockdowns and maintaining the low number of coronavirus cases around the country, he said we could learn something from watching their own vaccine rollout.
“What [Joe Biden] 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,” Dr Fauci said.
He said President Biden’s aim was to get as many experts into communities and vaccinating.
“Those are retired physicians, military personnel, nurses, medical students,” Dr Fauci said.
“[Mr Biden] made it the very, very top priority. He made equity a very important part of this.”
So far, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said given the “many uncertainties involved” it was no longer possible to set an end-of-year vaccination goal.