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If you think this outrage can be dismissed as an error, I'm afraid you are mistaken


Revelations that 160 students from an exclusive Sydney boys’ college were leapfrogged to the front of the vaccination queue have been dismissed as an error. It’s an explanation that doesn’t wash with Madonna King

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An error? An error?

In most of our parlance, an error is a genuine mistake. Taking the wrong turn on an afternoon drive, turning up to an appointment on the wrong day, mixing up a friend’s birthday.

There’s an explanation, almost always, when there’s an error.

Misreading the navigation system, putting the appointment in the diary on the wrong day, being almost certain your friend’s birthday was on July 8, not July 3.

But administering the Pfizer jab to 160 year 12 students, from one of the nation’s most privileged schools?

Stretch your imagination as far as you can, and it’s difficult to see how that could be an ‘error’.

And the reason why this is important is this: these vaccine roll-out ‘mistakes’ are now common, and public authorities and politicians just routinely dismiss them, and roll on into the next day.

It shows a vaccine roll-out in shambles, and policy makers behind it without the requisite skill to do the job.

And that begs the question of what else will go wrong tomorrow, and next week, and next year.

In Queensland – as well as other states – we have half the workers in some aged care homes unvaccinated.  We have teachers, due back next week, afraid of fronting classes – and their pleas to be considered as front-line workers ignored.

We have long queues of people – vulnerable, ill, aged and front-line workers across the state and nation – still to be vaccinated, and an ‘error’ is behind the vaccination of 160 HSC students at the ritzy St Joseph’s College in Sydney’s Hunters Hill?

That’s the excuse given by NSW Health which was responsible for the mass school vaccination.

It just doesn’t wash – and encourages the belief that this vaccine roll-out is riddled with inequities.

At what point did authorities believe it was an “error’’?

Obviously not when busloads of boys turned up – and not one of them looked like being aged between 40 and 60.

The uniforms didn’t seem to prompt any questions either. Perhaps they were front-line workers, dressed in school uniform?

Even the fact that they were all from the same (high fee-paying) school didn’t seem to prompt anyone to question why they were all being moved to the front of the queue.

“Sydney Local Health District apologises for this error,’’ NSW Health says.

Was it only an error, then, when the mass vaccination became public?

Perhaps that’s unfair, and there is an explanation – so what is it?

The problem here is that this is just another side-show, in a circus of side-shows.

Like where our much-needed quarantine centres will be built, and when?

Like whether premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should go to Tokyo to seal the deal for us to hold the Olympic Games?

Like why it is okay to pack fans into football matches, like sardines, but it’s not okay to provide a deserving farewell to a police officer killed while keeping the rest of us safe.

And let’s not even get started on that matter of the bunch of NRL players found hiding under beds and in cupboards in a bid to escape detection as they partied in contravention of NSW shutdown rules.

The most important foundation for a successful vaccine roll-out is public confidence. We need to believe that this will be the COVID game-changer.

But that’s a difficult story to sell when every day brings a new stuff-up.

And let’s not forget that a vaccine rollout is not an end in itself. It fixes the problem for now but the real need is to reinstate life back to somewhere near its form pre-COVID.

That means a world in which we can plan to travel, be confident our children can go to class and plan our lives and careers with the certainty that has been eroded.

Every foolish action – error or not – that impedes confidence in the vaccine rollout delays that return to normality. And that’s why we should be losing tolerance for foolish blundering.

Good luck to the school that managed to vaccinate its final year students but an error? Give me a break. Give all of us a break.

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