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New Momentum Sought For Vaccine Program In Australian States

As Victoria and South Australia eye a way out of lockdown, New South Wales struggles to deal with the Delta strain of Covid-19.

SYDNEY — Health Minister Greg Hunt said access and motivation are the keys to completing the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and exiting strict restrictions.

The minister’s comments came as Victoria and South Australia were on track to come out of lockdown, but the southeastern state, New South Wales, continued to record strong local case numbers, as well as severe illness and 10 deaths.

“It says what may be possible given the access and given the motivation,” said Hunt.

Hunt cited the example of the Australian Capital Territory, where over 94 percent of over 70s have now been vaccinated in a territory that has seen relatively few coronavirus cases.

New South Wales is hoping its decision to boost access to AstraZeneca vaccine through state clinics will inject new momentum into the program.

“(Delta) is such a highly infectious strain of the virus, whenever we get to a case in a family, the family’s already been infected or inevitably over the next couple of days will become positive. It has no grace period,” said Kerry Chant, Chief Health Officer of New South Wales.

11.2 million vaccine doses have been delivered, with 16.29 percent of the population aged over 16 receiving two doses. (Gustavo Fring/Pexels)

“I would encourage everyone to take up any opportunity to get vaccinated.”

There has been public hesitancy about AstraZeneca’s vaccine following top-level medical advice on links to rare blood clots, leading to a spike in demand for its Pfizer-produced alternative.

“The national rollout would benefit from clearer information on the availability, risks, and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is more abundant in supply than Pfizer,” said Jennifer Westacott, chief of the Business Council of Australia.

“To encourage maximum vaccination coverage of Australians, we need a single and clear set of advice around the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine, including its availability and dose intervals,” said the Business Council of Australia in a new research paper.

“We need to expand the number of vaccination sites (including additional pharmacies) for both vaccines.”

Westacott said the business sector stood ready to adapt existing flu vaccination programs to also provide Covid-19 jabs and encourage employees to be vaccinated.

Business leaders are also backing the idea of linking vaccination thresholds to the relaxation of restrictions and bringing an end to state border closures.

Detailed advice on these thresholds is expected to meet the national cabinet on July 30.

So far, 11.2 million vaccine doses have been delivered, with 16.29 percent of the population aged over 16 receiving two doses. New South Wales recorded 145 new local cases on July 26, with Sydney’s ongoing coronavirus crisis likely to lead to a lockdown extension.

While Victoria reported 11 new local Covid-19 cases, record testing rates are giving the state government confidence it can lift lockdown as planned on the night of July 27.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says his state’s shutdown will end at one minute past midnight on the morning of July 28, provided there are no further “unlinked” coronavirus cases.

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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