CANBERRA — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has walked back his suggestion that a COVID-19 vaccine could be made mandatory.
Morrison said on Wednesday morning that he would “expect” a vaccine “to be as mandatory as you can possibly make.” “There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
It came after his government signed a letter of intent with British-based drug company AstraZeneca to produce a promising candidate vaccine developed by University of Oxford locally if trials prove successful. He said that if this vaccine proves successful Australia would begin manufacturing it, pledging that “every single Australian” will receive it free of charge.
And hours later Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB that the vaccine would not be made mandatory for anybody. “It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine,” he said Wednesday afternoon.”There are no mechanisms for ‘compulsory.’ I mean, we can’t hold someone down and make them take it.”
Morrison said that he hoped the vaccine would be available to Australians in early 2021. And Australia will need about a 95 percent vaccination rate across the country, which is the normal target range for having a vaccination program. “We just need to understand no one’s going to force anybody to do anything as a compulsory measure. But we certainly will be encouraging people to take this up and to ensure that we support that through ways that the government can assist that,” Morrison told 2GB.”There will be no compulsory vaccine, but there will be a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance, as usual.” “What we want to achieve is as much vaccination as we possibly can, should the vaccine actually prove successful and get through those trials.”