Six-year pandemic: World vaccine rollout delay expected



UNRESTRICTED international travel is unlikely to return for several years as experts warn the world will not be fully vaccinated from COVID-19 until 2027.

The sobering claim that it will take up to six years to attain global herd immunity emerged yesterday, sparking further doubt over Australia's timeline for international travel to return to normal.

Dr Sanjaya Senanayake told the National Press Club that worldwide protection would take a lot longer than widely thought, with poorer countries likely to only have 10 per cent of their populations protected by year's end.

"At the current rate of vaccination, it is estimated we won't reach global coverage of 75 per cent with vaccines for about six years. Not one or two years but six years," he said.

Dr Senanayake warned that across 70 of the world's poorest nations, rolling out the vaccine would take a lot longer than more developed nations.

He said a lack of coverage elsewhere could expose Australia to mutant variants that vaccines may struggle with, creating a requirement for people to get a yearly jab.

D Sanjaya Senanayake. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
D Sanjaya Senanayake. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Infectious diseases paediatrician Robert Booy, who also appeared on the panel, said those poorer countries could be vaccinated faster - within two to three years - if countries such as Australia acted as a "good neighbour" and helped. Dr Senanayake said determining how quickly international travel would return to normal was a question of "how long is a piece of string", due to the variables.

But he said Australia assisting Pacific and poorer Asian nations would be vital.

Griffith University infect­ious diseases and immunology director Nigel McMillan told The Courier-Mail much would depend on how successful the vaccines were at preventing transmission, about which there was little data so far.

But he said even if they only proved effective at preventing serious illness and death, borders were likely to start opening to travellers who were vaccinated once the nation reached 75 per cent coverage for herd immunity at home.

"If we get to 75 per cent, in two years' time there will be a range of countries that will be fairly normal," he said.

"Are we going to get back to free and unfettered travel? That will take years I think."

Authorities expect Australia's rollout to be finished by October with 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be produced in Melbourne.


Originally published as Six-year pandemic: World vaccine rollout delay expected