While it has been fashionable, since Plato coined the phrase more than 2000 years ago, to say "necessity is the mother of invention", that's just half the story. It is equally important to remember Alfred North Whitehead's observation "the basis of invention is science, and science is almost wholly the outgrowth of... intellectual curiosity".
While we wouldn't have had the many COVID-19 vaccines now being rolled out across the world, most recently in this country, without the "necessity" for them, the real reason they are available so soon is because of the scientists.
If it had not been for work in universities and research institutes over many decades no "jabs" would have been forthcoming. Or, as another aphorist once put it: "If wishes were horses beggars would ride".
It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister, the Health Minister, and the rest to magnanimously praise the scientific community for a few moments before moving on to other things.
The most significant lessons of this pandemic, and of climate change, are we neglect our universities and research institutions at our peril. Rather than leaving the university sector to find its own way during the most dire financial crisis it has ever faced, it would have made more sense to ensure no research was stopped, no academics lost their jobs, and that additional investments into broadening our knowledge of the universe, the world, and ourselves were made.
That said, it is right to take time out to celebrate the inauguration of Australia's vaccination program despite the various political squabbles over whether or not the Prime Minister should have got his shot in the arm, whether the vaccine should have been rolled out sooner, and the rest.
In regard to the former, Mr Morrison was always going to be damned if he did and damned if he didn't. Just because he jumped one way and NZ's Jacinda Ardern jumped the other doesn't make either of them wrong. What we do know is vaccine hesitancy is real. As many as one in five Australians have yet to be persuaded they should roll up their sleeves. The advice the Prime Minister received was it would help if he set an example. He doesn't deserve to be bashed up for acting on that advice.
And, as for the criticism the vaccine roll-out should have commenced earlier, presumably before full TGA approval had been granted, the issue of vaccine hesitancy is also pertinent. Australia is not in the same situation as America, where the death toll is just about to reach the 500,000 mark, or the UK. We could afford to conduct the most rigorous possible approval process, and to make sure we had all our ducks in a row when it came to getting the delivery process sorted out ahead of time.
The more confidence that can be instilled into the community about the vaccine and the way it is being delivered, the more likely it is that people will turn up when their names are called.
This is important given the results coming in from overseas have confirmed the Pfizer vaccine, to name just one, is a real game changer. Israeli studies suggest it prevents 98.9 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths. That means that in Australia, where the mortality rate has been successfully held at just over three per cent, deaths would be close to zero if everybody was vaccinated. Of equal significance is the finding, again from Israel, that even after just the first dose the Pfizer vaccine produces a "robust immune response" with a 75 per cent reduction in both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.
The first vaccine is here. A second, said to be just as good, is on its way. The most important thing to do right now is to get doses out of the bottles and into people's arms.