The McKell Institute said its new report, Counting the cost of Australia’s delayed vaccine rollout, indicated the $1.4 billion estimate is based on even the most optimistic of scenarios.
The federal government’s initial COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap plan would have reached the earliest possible measure of herd immunity (65 per cent vaccination rate) by August 2021.
However, the McKell Institute said delays have now blown this date out, increasing the chances of further lockouts and restrictions.
It also said that even if Australia instantly picks up it vaccination rollout rate to that of the UK — currently the second-best performer in the world — it would delay herd immunity by 116 days from the Morrison government’s original projection.
Based on this projection, Australia could expect 11.1 days of lockdown in the extra period, costing the economy some $1.368 billion.
By comparison, if Australia were to instantly increase the pace of vaccination to mimic the rate of Germany, the delay would be 353 days with a projected economic cost of $4.164 billion.
The McKell Institute’s executive director, Michael Buckland, said the delays will increase the chance of lockdowns and the economic costs that come with them.
“It’s vital we are clear-sighted about the cost and impact of a government’s action or inaction,” Mr Buckland said.
“Just as it was correct for the government to measure the economic impact of state lockdowns, so, too, should the government embrace the publication of clear information about the economic impact of its vaccination rollout program.
“Australia’s vaccination program has failed to meet its targets and it’s incomprehensible that we will catch up. Our leaders need to accept the additional risks of delay and act.
“Additional support measures for vulnerable people and businesses must be considered in response to the delay.”