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The vast majority of Australians agree Australia should help Pacific Island nations to pay for COVID-19 vaccines, according to a poll on Australian attitudes to the pandemic by the Lowy Institute

The COVIDpoll 2021 report, published in early May, surveyed over 2,000 adult citizens and found 83% want the country to help its closest Pacific neighbours afford COVID-19 vaccines, while 60% feel the same way about supporting the broader Southeast Asian region. 

Natasha Kassam, the director of the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at the Lowy Institute and the report’s author, says age played a factor when it came to the likelihood of agreeing with funding vaccines for Southeast Asia. 

"Younger Australians are more likely to support vaccine assistance for Southeast Asian countries than older Australians, with seven in ten 18-29-year-olds saying that Australia should fund vaccines for Southeast Asia, compared to 56% of Australians over 30,” Kassam wrote in the report. “More than 80% across all age groups polled say that Australia should fund vaccines for Pacific island countries.”

The support from the vast majority of Australians is in line with the government’s vaccine approach. 

Over the past six months, over $800 million has been pledged for vaccines in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, according to the report. 

Alongside the $800 million, last year, $80 million was pledged by Australia to the COVAX Facility, a vaccine equity partnership, while, in the most recent federal budget, tens of millions were committed to helping India through its COVID-19 crisis and 10,000 Australian-made COVID-19 vaccines were promised to be sent to the region each week.

The budget, however, did not see an overall increase to Australia’s official international development budget. 

In fact, the aid budget, the pool of funding dedicated to helping vulnerable neighbouring countries address poverty and progress prosperity, declined by $14 million. 

The Lowy Institute poll matches a YouGov survey conducted last month, which found that 84% of Australians agree that the government should support Papua New Guinea in its fight against a major COVID-19 outbreak. At the time, Papua New Guinea had recorded just under 10,000 cases, around 10 times the number recorded three months prior.

A report from September 2020 likewise found 61% of Australians want the government to increase aid spending to tackle COVID-19.


Defeat Poverty

83% of Australians Want the Government to Help Purchase COVID-19 Vaccines for the Pacific

By Madeleine Keck