The vaccine debate continues, with the same outlet that brought you “Scientists call for pause on AstraZeneca rollout” now running an exclusive with the vaccine’s director, who warns a delay could cost lives. Professor Andrew Pollard, of the Oxford Vaccine Group, tells the Nine papers the focus should not be on whether vaccines prevent transmission but that they prevent serious illness and death. He also says herd immunity may never be achieved, even when using more effective vaccines. Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday confirmed Australia’s commitment to herd immunity, with a two-stage strategy to pursue protection while making vaccines available as soon as possible. Melbourne-based vaccine manufacturer CSL will consider its ability to make Novavax but says its first priority will be AstraZeneca’s shots, while the head of Pfizer says it has more vaccine than can be used right now. At present, Australia has been allocated 10 million doses.
Countries are adapting too slowly to the changing climate, the UN has warned, with governments failing to take the measures needed to protect citizens from floods, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather. The UN Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report says nearly three-quarters of countries recognise the need to adapt to new threats, but few plans are adequate or properly funded. Sounds familiar. Australian government agencies are refusing the vast majority of freedom of information requests for environment-related documents, with the Australian Conservation Foundation urging an investigation into how ministers treat FOIs. Meanwhile, the WA government has failed to penalise Chevron’s Gorgon plant over its increased greenhouse gas emissions, with calls for the plant to be shut until its faulty carbon capture system is fixed.
This year’s census will include a gender non-binary option for the first time, as part of a new standard for sex, gender and sexual orientation released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, Nine reports. The move is aimed at addressing a data gap on gender and sex diversity, with the 2016 census counting only 1260 gender diverse people, or 5.4 per 100,000 – a number the ABS believes is too small. The last survey included an “other” category, but was not a standard option and required a special form. The new standard will apply to a range of ABS surveys, including phrases such as “sex recorded at birth” and making clear when questions refer to “current gender, which may be different”. It also recommends statisticians use gender neutral pronouns in surveys, to better include transgender, intersex and non-binary Australians in the formal database.
The US President is being uncharacteristically silent following his second impeachment, with advisers saying he is moping around the White House, alone and in “self-pity mode”. The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump feels let down by his allies, and is upset that no one is out there defending him, while a White House adviser told CNN “everybody’s angry at everyone”. Trump has reportedly fallen out with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and is – characteristically – refusing to pay his outstanding legal bills. Security concerns are mounting following the impeachment, with law enforcement agencies across the US bracing for more violent gatherings. The National Park Service has denied reports that the National Mall will be closed on inauguration day, but officials have confirmed that Biden will no longer take the Amtrak to Washington that day, as has long been planned.
This is the final issue of Summer Schwartz. Thanks for joining us for what turned out to be an extremely eventful summer break. The Briefing with Max Opray will be back next week.