The cost of the government's delay in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to the Australian population is likely to exceed $1.4 billion on even the most optimistic of scenarios, according to new modelling by the McKell Institute.
The Morrison Government's initial COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap plan would have reached the earliest possible measure of herd immunity (65 per cent vaccination rate) by August 2021. But delays have now blown this date out, increasing the chances of further lockouts and restrictions.
According to the new report, 'Counting the cost of Australia's delayed vaccine roll-out,' even if Australia instantly picks up it vaccination rollout rate to that of the UK – currently the second-best performer in the world – it would delay herd immunity by 116 days from the Morrison Government's original projection. On this projection, Australia could except 11.1 days of lockdown in the extra period, costing the economy some $1.368 billion.
By comparison, if Australia were to instantly increase the pace of vaccination to mimic the rate of Germany, the delay would be 353 days with a projected economic cost of $4.164 billion.
The McKell Institute's executive director, Michael Buckland, said it was critical to lay the hard facts on the table.
"These delays will increase the chance of lockdowns and the economic costs that come with them," Mr Buckland said.
"It's vital we are clear sighted about the cost and impact of a government's action or inaction.
"Just as it was correct for the government to measure the economic impact of state lockdowns, so too should the government embrace the publication of clear information about the economic impact of its vaccination roll-out program.
"Australia's vaccination program has failed to meet its targets and it's incomprehensible that we will catch up. Our leaders need to accept the additional risks of delay and act.
"Additional support measures for vulnerable people and businesses must be considered in response to the delay."