More shots fired in vaccine war

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has doubled down on criticism of the Morrison government’s backing of AstraZeneca for under-40s, as fears grow that the war of words will fuel vaccine hesitancy.

What we know:

  • In an interview on ABC’s 7.30, Palaszczuk said she did not want to see a young person in her state dying from a vaccine due to the risk of extremely rare blood clots (ABC); 
  • Palaszczuk claimed the UK was not offering AstraZeneca to under-40s — though authorities there merely recommend alternatives and have not banned it (SBS); 
  • She added she thought the Commonwealth was looking to set up mass vaccination hubs to administer AstraZeneca to the under-40s;
  • A spokesperson for the federal government said: “That is absolutely incorrect and it is unclear what the Queensland Premier is basing that claim upon.” (SMH);
  • Most premiers pushed back on Wednesday against the federal move to open up AstraZeneca access to under-40s, arguing it was against medical advice;
  • “Adults should be allowed to consent to an intervention with a 3-in-100,000 risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome and less than 1-in-1,000,000 of death,” countered the Commonwealth's expert medical panel member Dr Nick Coatsworth (ABC); 
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Karen Price said the debate this week was “a failure of pandemic management” that had confused the public (NewsGP). 
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Bill Cosby conviction overturned

Bill Cosby has walked free from jail after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction because of a procedural issue.

The court found a previous prosecutor had made a deal with Cosby promising not to proceed with criminal charges when the comedian gave potentially incriminating testimony in an earlier civil case (AP). 

The 83-year-old has served nearly three years of a three-to-10 year sentence after being found guilty of drugging and violating a woman.

More than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault or misconduct (USA Today). 

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Deadly Canadian heatwave

More than a hundred excess deaths have been recorded in Canada’s British Columbia since Friday, as a record-breaking heatwave sweeps the region.

At least 233 deaths were reported over four days, compared with a typical death toll of 130 (CNN). 

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the rise in sudden deaths was likely linked to the heatwave and that “this number will increase as data continues to be updated”.

Canada broke its temperature record for a third straight day on Tuesday, recording 49.6C in the town of Lytton in an unprecedented heatwave fuelled by climate change (BBC). 

Before Sunday, temperatures in Canada had never passed 45C.

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Failures in immigration

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has detailed in a new report a litany of failures across Australia’s immigration detention network.

Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe conducted on-site inspections of the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), Mantra Bell City and Villawood detention centre to inform his report (SBS). 

Manthorpe expressed concern about:

  • Two incidences of excessive force used against detainees;
  • Detainees being mechanically restrained to attend medical appointments;
  • A lack of consideration for the needs of vulnerable detainees;
  • The suitability of hotels for long-term accommodation of people.

The report recommended that the department track the reasonableness of force used within the detention network, provide training to support staff in alternative responses and improve the quality and consistency of record keeping.

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Pets on planes

Australians could soon be allowed to bring their pets into airline cabins when they fly, under new rules set to be introduced this year.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is planning to lift a ban on pets in the cabin of planes, allowing airlines to set their own rules (The Latch). 

Australians can now only bring support animals such as seeing eye dogs into the cabin, with all other pets required to travel in the cargo hold.

There will be some guidelines, with airlines instructed to consider how the animal “is carried, contained and restrained; its reaction to noise and being out of its natural environment; nuisance to other passengers; distraction to flight crew; and how excrement or fluids will be contained”.

Pets overseas regularly travel in airline cabins, subject to fees and weight restrictions.

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It’s either gross incompetence, maladministration or straight out racism. Or probably, a combination of all three.

Indigenous health advocate Olga Havnen says Aboriginal people sleeping rough in the NT may not be used to having to deal with lockdowns, but they are plenty familiar with being ignored by incompetent, racist governments (The Guardian).

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Postscript: AstraZeneca Now Recommended For Anyone Who Has The Remotest Idea Of What The Fuck Is Going On

In a media conference today, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government’s advice was clear. “The AstraZenca vaccine is open to all 25 million Australians, as long as they are over 60 but not younger than 70, or any age over 18 but born in March of a leap year, except 1974. That was yesterday’s advice of course. But now we are saying it is open to anyone who can decipher what the actual fuck I am saying on any given day, subject of course to supply constraints. It really couldn’t be any more straightforward.” (The Shovel)

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.