Australia’s 'Zero COVID' strategy has allowed us to escape the worst of the pandemic so far: our death toll has been among the world’s lowest, our recession among the shortest, and we’ve faced fewer restrictions on our daily lives than almost anywhere else. But we have paid a heavy price: we are shut off from the rest of the world, and we have frequently been locked down to contain outbreaks. The more infectious Delta variant is making Zero COVID even harder to maintain. Australians have supported a hard-line approach, but they are also tired and frustrated.

No magic number of vaccines will rid us of COVID forever. But we can vaccinate enough Australians to 'tame' COVID. This report shows that fully vaccinating 80 per cent of all Australians, and 95 per cent of the over-70s, will give us the best change of gradually returning to normal life - with open borders and no lockdowns. 

80 per cent is an ambitious target. But Australia will have enough vaccine to reach it very quickly as more supply arrives in coming months. About 90 per cent of Australians have consistently said that they want a vaccine – the task for governments is not to convert entrenched ‘anti-vaxxers’, but to get shots in the arms of people who want them, and to convince those who are hesitant to get vaccinated sooner rather than later. We can reach 80 per cent vaccine coverage by the end of the year if a vaccine is approved for children under 12. Otherwise, we should aim to reach 80 per cent by the end of March 2022, by vaccinating a higher share of adults.

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Grattan Institute Report No. 2021-09