Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April.
Australia’s leader has abandoned a plan to make a vaccine for the coronavirus compulsory for his citizens.
On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a radio station it would be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it.”
But later that day, speaking with another radio station, Morrison backtracked. “It’s not compulsory. There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia,” he told 2GB radio.
Morrison’s government announced Tuesday that it had signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to provide every Australian with a vaccine.
Governments around the world appear to acknowledge that they cannot make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory. The top US infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Tuesday: “You cannot force someone to take a vaccine.”
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has swiftly rowed back a plan to make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all his citizens.
Morrison told 3AW radio on Wednesday morning that taking a vaccine would 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 said.
But hours later, Morrison amended the plan, saying people would have a choice.
“It is not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK? It’s not compulsory. There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia,” he told 2GB radio.
“There will be a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance as usual.”
A commuter next to a screen with an Australian government directive regarding COVID-19 and social-distancing measures in Melbourne, Australia, on March 18.
Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
Morrison made the concession after a listener phoned in to the radio station to ask why he would have to vaccinate his child.
The prime minister’s move suggests that his government is willing accommodate those who don’t want a coronavirus vaccine, or those in the anti-vaxxer movement who outright oppose all vaccination.
The photos below show people in Australia protesting vaccinations in Brisbane and Sydney in May:
No country has yet made taking a coronavirus vaccine mandatory.
On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, told a virtual town hall: “I don’t think you’ll ever see a mandating of vaccines, particularly for the general public.”
“You cannot force someone to take a vaccine,” he added.
Polling from YouGov in June found that just under a third of British people said they would not commit to taking a vaccine for the coronavirus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called anti-vaxxers “nuts” a month later.
Experts are warning that a reluctance to get vaccinated could result in preventable deaths from COVID-19 and that critics of vaccines are using the expedited vaccine schedule to bolster arguments against inoculation.
Vial 1 of Box 1 of the vaccine candidate to be used in phase 1 clinical trials at the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility in Oxford, England, on April 2.
Sean Elias/Handout via Reuters
Vaccines usually take as many as 15 years to make and approve, but the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted researchers to move quickly.
Read more: More than 160 research programs are hunting for a coronavirus vaccine. Here’s how the top drugmakers see the race for a cure playing out and when the first shots might be available.
On Tuesday, Morrison’s government announced that it had signed an agreement with the drugmaker AstraZeneca, which would see enough vaccines provided to inoculate every Australian.
AstraZeneca is working on a vaccine with the Oxford Vaccine Group. It is one of a handful of products in phase 3 trials.
Last week, Russia said it had approved a vaccine for the coronavirus, but experts have cast doubt on its safety as it has not completed crucial phase 3 testing and researchers are keeping their data secret. Some citizens have already said they would not take it.
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