Small business groups concerned vaccine rollout delay will slow full recovery for tourism-reliant businesses

Peter Strong JobKeeper nuclear power

COSBOA chief Peter Strong. Source: supplied.

Small business groups are concerned the federal government’s failure to meet its vaccination target of 4 million doses by April will prolong the economic recovery from the pandemic.

The government fell short of its vaccine target after recording that 842,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines had been given out since the start of the rollout, instead of its previous goal of 4 million.

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council for Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) says vaccines “need to be rolled out a lot quicker”.

“I think the government was very optimistic in the first case, but the message they were sending was a very important message,” Strong tells SmartCompany.

“Now, what the government has to do is focus on getting vaccines out as quickly and safely as possible.”

Despite delays in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy affecting the longer-term recovery of small businesses reliant on the flow of international arrivals, Strong says his members are focused on the task at hand.

“I’m not hearing from the small business sector that they’re too upset about it. Members are more focused on business and what’s happening now,” he says.

The federal government’s long-term target is to vaccinate all adults, which is about 20 million people, by the end of October.

To achieve that target, 200,000 doses per day must be administered or 1.3 million doses a week between April and the end of October.

John Lever, owner at Koorana Crocodile Farm in northern Queensland, says he is more concerned about the end of JobKeeper wage subsidies, which were “a huge help”.

“I’m not concerned about any delays to the vaccine rollout because our area has been virtually free from COVID-19,” Lever tells SmartCompany.

Established 20 years ago, the family-run crocodile farm is home to about 5,000 crocodiles and a licensed restaurant that caters for up to 100 people.

Prior to international border closures, foreign tourists were a key source of business at Koorana Crocodile Farm in the summer months, but Lever says he has adjusted to focusing on the domestic market, given borders will remain shut for sometime.

“During the summer months international tourists are particularly important. In March, not having any international tourists was a big miss for us,” he said.

“But quite frankly, we’re looking at the bigger picture and we’re happy for there not to be any international tourists until everyone is vaccinated.”

However, Wes Lambert, chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, says it is not only the tourism industry that is relying on a successful vaccine rollout for long-term recovery.

“Ultimately, as the hospitality industry begins the long road to full recovery, which will not happen until international borders reopen, any delays to the vaccine rollout are concerning to our industry,” Lambert tells SmartCompany.

Australia is using both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines and while it can produce the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne, it is currently reliant on securing the Pfizer vaccine through international supply chains.

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