health

Morning mail: aged care vaccine limbo, US pauses Johnson & Johnson jab, Matildas lose again


Good morning. It’s not good news on the vaccine rollout front as frustration grows for aged care workers waiting to get their jab in Australia. And the US, which had been vaccinating people at rapid rates, has hit a hurdle with some blood clot concerns around the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Australia’s largest aged care provider, Bupa, has been left in limbo about its employees’ Covid vaccines six weeks into the rollout. It says it has yet to receive any plan from the government on when its workforce will be immunised, despite aged care staff initially supposed to be vaccinated as part of the highest priority cohort. Council on the Ageing chief executive, Ian Yates, sounded the alarm weeks ago. “Vaccination of the staff is really important to the Covid security of residents, and we are concerned that the vaccination of staff doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy at this point,” he said. Australia recorded its first Covid-related death since October after an 80-year-old man died in a Queensland hospital yesterday after returning from overseas.

The shakeup of Australia’s vaccine rollout after AstraZeneca was shelved for under-50s is a blow to the tourism industry, with fears if the international border remains closed until next year, Australia “will miss out on first demand” of would-be holiday-makers. Despite treasurer Josh Frydenberg assuring the delay would not “derail momentum in our economic recovery”, economic expert Adele Labine-Romain says “every quarter that we delay this is a quarter we push recovery back and we run the risk of cutting ourselves off from the world.”

US health agencies have recommended states halt the administration of the Johnson & Johnson jab over blood-clot fears. Six women developed rare and severe blood clots out of more than 6.8m doses administered nationally. Following the recommendation, Johnson & Johnson announced it would “proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe”. This “completely unexpected” announcement prompted the European commission to seek “urgent clarification” from the company, which is contracted to deliver 55m doses to the EU by June. Australia had already ruled out doing a deal with Johnson & Johnson as it is an adenovirus vaccine like AstraZeneca. Yesterday’s second case of a rare blood clot syndrome, in Western Australia, “is likely” linked to the AstraZeneca jab.

Australia

Prof. Lukman Thalib has spoken to the Guardian in his first comments since being detained for five months without charge in Qatar.
Australian public health professor Lukman Thalib has spoken to the Guardian in his first comments since being detained for five months without charge in Qatar. Photograph: Talib Family

Australian public health professor Lukman Thalib alleges he told Australian consulate staff he was being tortured and held without charge when they visited him in a Qatari prison, but says they did nothing to help. Thalib alleged he had been subjected to “calculated” torture and is “haunted” by possibility of false confession.

Former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate has accused Scott Morrison of “one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed” when he dressed her down during a parliamentary question time. Holgate said she is still deciding whether to take legal action against her former employer but said she would “love” an apology from the prime minister.

Two people have been killed after a light plane crash north of Canberra. The Essential Energy plane was conducting aerial inspections of the company’s electricity network prior to the crash.

The world

Joe Biden will withdraw all the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. The drawdown of US troops will begin by 1 May and will be completed by the 9/11 anniversary.

Biden has also called on Vladimir Putin to demand he de-escalate tensions with Ukraine amid the largest buildup of Russian forces on its borders since the annexation of Crimea.

The hunt for a serial killer who preyed on gay men in Toronto was hampered by “serious flaws” in the police investigation – including the stereotyping of LGBTQ+ people by police officers and a lack of public trust – a new report has concluded.

Libyan authorities have released a man described as one of the world’s most wanted human traffickers. He was arrested last October but was freed on Sunday after charges against him were dropped “for lack of evidence”

Recommended reads

Below Deck in season seven, just before Covid hit and the ship staff’s panic started rising
An episode of reality TV show Below Deck, just before Covid hit and the ship staff started to panic. Photograph: Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Wendy Syfret turned to reality TV to escape during the pandemic, binge-watching reality TV show Below Deck. But eventually, reality caught up with life on the mega yachts. The first mention of the pandemic appears in episode six when staff member Ashling gets a call from her mum. Over a crackling speakerphone her mum asks: “Did you hear about the coronavirus?” She recommends her daughter buys some masks. “I was surprised how my stomach churned when I heard the word ‘coronavirus’ in my hallowed reality-TV sanctuary. Like many people, the pandemic has seen me develop an eerie callous to brutal news, but this resolve started to chip as I witnessed the Below Deck staff’s rising panic,” says Syfret.

What happens when you take every culinary indulgence – every afternoon biscuit, ham sarnie, scoop of ice-cream and post-work glass of wine – and add them together over the course of a month? The Junk Food Analyser, a quiz slash come-to-Jesus moment from the CSIRO, does just that. And the results can be confronting. “Our intention wasn’t to scare people,” Dr Gilly Hendrie, the Australian science agency’s lead researcher on the project, says. “It was to bring people’s attention to all the different types of foods that go in this category.”

Helen Sullivan takes us on a deep dive into the humble donkey and how they captivate the human imagination all over the world. “Better to be born a limpet in the sea than a load-bearing donkey,” they say in Sicily. “No donkey can cart / what weighs down your heart,” goes an East African proverb. There’s no doubt donkeys hold a strange power over people. A 2003 story in the Guardian reported that the UK charity Donkey Sanctuary “took in £13m” in a single year. “In donations, it receives more than Age Concern, Mencap and the Samaritans.” Then again, who can blame these donors, when here is a donkey foal wagging its tail as it rocks in a hammock.

Listen

After Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming faced complaints of online harassment, the government said his behaviour was “unacceptable”, ordering him to take leave and undergo empathy training. In today’s Full Story, chief political correspondent Sarah Martin explores Laming’s political future and explains how her subsequent reporting into Laming’s online activity has triggered an electoral commission investigation.

The ongoing scandals of Liberal MP Andrew Laming

The ongoing scandals of Liberal MP Andrew Laming

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

The Matildas have endured a second dispiriting setback to their Olympics preparations in the space of four days, suffering a humbling 5-0 defeat to World Cup finalists, the Netherlands, in Nijmegen.

Arguments against expanding the NRL come down, eventually – as many if not most things do – to money. There is an argument that existing clubs may not survive. There is another that there’s too little talent, and that the competition is already too lopsided. That it is all too new and what can it possibly mean? People can fret themselves to a standstill. But let us do it. Let us go to 17 and then 18 teams.

Media roundup

Adelaide University knocked back millions of dollars in research funding from overseas universities over security fears, including Chinese funding with suspected connections to military projects, and other foreign university collaborations because of “links to a nuclear weapons program”, reports the Advertiser. In Western Australia, a Nine News Perth investigation has revealed more than 40 of the state’s childcare facilities have been sanctioned for inadequate supervision of children, failure to protect from harm and hazard and contravening safety rules. And a Queensland town is set to be the first in Australia to get an underground waste disposal system, reports the Brisbane Times.

Coming up

Prime minister Scott Morrison is expected to visit WA for the first time in 18 months.

A truck driver who pleading guilty to killing four police officers in a crash on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway will be sentenced.

And if you’ve read this far …

Life’s a Bitche for one historic town in north-east France that has received an apology from Facebook after its page was shut down for apparently using offensive language, which should please the local Bitchois.

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