UPDATED: Extra vaccines mean ACT will hit thresholds sooner, but unlikely to hasten lockdown exit

Dominic Giannini and Genevieve Jacobs 11 September 2021 15
AIS COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

More than 30,000 extra Pfizer appointments are now available at the AIS COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 2:00 pm: The ACT was originally scheduled to have 80 per cent of its population over the age of 16 fully vaccinated by mid-November, but the Territory will likely hit this milestone in late October as more Pfizer vaccines from the UK deal and Moderna shipments arrive next week.

More than 30,000 extra Pfizer appointments became available at the AIS mass vaccination hub from yesterday, resulting in 19,500 first dose appointments being brought forward.

The ACT is also due to receive 167,000 Moderna vaccines over the coming months if the nation’s 10 million scheduled doses are distributed on a population basis.

The Commonwealth has advised that most new Pfizer doses coming from the UK deal will go to local GPs, creating as many as 60,000 new booking opportunities.

Moderna will initially be administered through the pharmacy network.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said this meant people with bookings in October or November may be able to get their Pfizer or Moderna vaccine sooner through GPs and pharmacies.

“We have no [problems with] vaccine hesitancy in the ACT; we are seeing such strong levels of bookings,” Mr Barr said.

“What has been holding the Territory back has been a lack of vaccine supplies.

“But now that those supply issues are being overcome, it is incredibly encouraging to see how many people are coming forward to get vaccinated, making their bookings and bringing their bookings forward when the opportunity arises.”

Just over 75 per cent of Canberrans over the age of 16 have had their first dose, rising to over 95 per cent for Canberrans over the age of 60.

“There is every indication younger Canberrans will follow the same path as the older cohorts in getting vaccinated,” Mr Barr said.

“We still have a way to go but Canberrans are showing great willingness to get vaccinated and this is so critical because a highly vaccinated Canberra is a safer Canberra.

“Our nation-leading vaccination program should give everyone great confidence that there will be much better times ahead later this year. ”

More than 70,000 people are booked for their first dose at ACT Government clinics.

But the extra doses are unlikely to impact the ACT’s roadmap out of the current lockdown, which will be announced by the Chief Minister and the Chief Health Officer on Tuesday (14 September).

“We will be looking at our plan in the context of particular thresholds, in terms of vaccination levels of the population 12 years and older and the need for vaccines to become effective two weeks after [being administered],” he said.

“I hope it is now clear in the minds of Canberrans that you do not get immediate protection from your first dose or full protection for your second dose until about two weeks after you have had the jab – your body needs time to develop your immune response.

“People should not focus on the day we pass a particular milestone, but two weeks after when the vaccine becomes effective.”

Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr at this morning’s COVID-19 briefing. Photo: Region Media.

12:30 pm: There are 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the ACT overnight, and in what Chief Minister Andrew Barr described at today’s press briefing as “excellent news”, 14 are already linked to existing cases.

Nine were in quarantine during their entire infectious period, which Mr Barr said was “another good sign”.

However, six people spent time in the community and 16 people are hospitalised including three in intensive care, one of whom requires ventilation.

A detainee at the AMC on transfer into the prison was identified after the 8:00 pm cut-off so is not one of the 15 new cases in the ACT. There are few details about this case at this stage.

Mr Barr has made no comment on reports that fragments of COVID-19 have been found in Yass sewage, although it’s possible the Local Government Area may return immediately to quarantine.

But he said some of the most severely ill people in the Southern Area Health Service may need to come to Canberra Hospital, the only tertiary hospital in the region, as adjoining regional NSW opens up.

The Chief Minister said it had been a strong day for testing as 3202 people came forward. But as ACT Policing, WorkSafe and Access Canberra continue “a very strong compliance program”, there are a number of businesses where staff are still failing to follow public health directions and they will face far more regular enforcement.

Chief Health Office Dr Kerryn Coleman said the outbreak now totals 478 cases, of whom 250 are active cases and 228 have recovered fully. Of the 16 people who are hospitalised, 13 are wholly unvaccinated and two have had one dose. The youngest is under 12 and the oldest is 75.

Mr Barr said that 19,500 first dose appointments have been brought forward with the release of additional appointments yesterday. People with existing dates in late October and early November can likely now be vaccinated earlier.

The Commonwealth has advised that the majority of new Pfizer doses coming from the United Kingdom deal will go to local GPs, creating as many as 60,000 new booking opportunities. Ten million Moderna vaccines will also arrive in Australia in the coming months.

Mr Barr said it was anticipated around 167,000 of these doses would come to the ACT and will be available through pharmacies.

In the ACT, 75 per cent of the over-16 population have had their first dose, and more than 70,000 people are booked for their first dose at ACT Government clinics, in addition to those receiving vaccine from their GP. Of the ACT’s 60-plus population, 95 per cent have now had now at least one dose of vaccine, a national first.

Mr Barr said younger age groups were also coming forward at high rates and there was “every indication” they would follow the path set by older Canberrans.

“We have no doubts about vaccine hesitancy in the ACT. What’s been holding the ACT back is lack of vaccine supply,” Mr Barr said.

“It is incredibly encouraging how many people are coming forward. We still have a way to go, but Canberrans are showing great willingness to get vaccinated.”

The Chief Minister characterised a highly vaccinated Canberra as a safer Canberra.

“There will be much better times ahead later this year,” he promised.

11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm last night.

Of the 15 cases, 14 are linked to current exposure sites and identified close contacts. One remains under investigation.

Nine were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period; six spent part of their infectious period in the community.

There are currently 16 people in hospital with COVID, three are in intensive care and one requires ventilation.

Yesterday, 3202 tests were completed.

ACT Policing, WorkSafe and Access Canberra conducted 602 traffic stops. Nine people were directed to leave the ACT.

Yesterday, the ACT reached 75 per cent of the population having at least one vaccine shot, and 95 per cent of people aged 60 and over have had at least one dose – a national first for the ACT.

NSW today announced 1599 locally acquired cases and eight deaths. Yesterday, NSW reported 1532 new cases and nine deaths.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said none of the people who died in the past 24 hours were vaccinated. Three were in their 80s, two in their 70s, one in their 50s, one in their 40s, and one in their 30s. All had underlying health conditions, he said.

Victoria has recorded 450 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday, Victoria recorded 334 local cases.

Dr Kerryn Coleman

Dr Kerryn Coleman, ACT Chief Health Officer. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Census Campus in Belconnen has been listed as an exposure location, as have a number of supermarkets and pharmacies across Canberra.

Anyone on level one of the Census Campus between 8:40 am and 5:30 pm on Monday, 6 September, is considered a casual contact while anyone in the rest of the building during this time is being told to monitor for symptoms.

Woolworths Belconnen at Westfield has also been listed as a casual exposure site between 6:25 pm and 7:20 pm on Tuesday, 31 August, and people at Dan Murphy’s at the Westfield between 6:15 pm and 7:00 pm on the same day are being told to monitor for symptoms.

Priceline Pharmacy Gungahlin for Saturday, 4 September, between 4:35 pm and 5:25 pm was also named as a ‘monitor for symptoms location.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of smell or taste
  • runny or blocked nose.

A full list of the new exposure locations, which includes stores in Gungahlin, Holt, Kippax, Dunlop and Griffith, as well as two new public transport routes, can be found at covid19.act.gov.au.

Health authorities have used the new list of exposure locations to remind Canberrans to get tested even if they only have mild symptoms.

Testing remains strong in the ACT, providing wide coverage of the developing COVID situation in the Territory.

The ACT’s vaccination rate is accelerating after 30,000 extra Pfizer appointments became available at the AIS mass vaccination hub.

Almost 14,400 first jab appointments were made or moved closer yesterday (10 September) after the new appointments became available.

The announcement came on the same day that the ACT reached the 50 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.

This weekend, it is forecast that 75 per cent of ACT residents over the age of 16 will have received at least one jab.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will update the ACT’s COVID-19 situation at 11:45 am.

More to come.


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15 Responses to UPDATED: Extra vaccines mean ACT will hit thresholds sooner, but unlikely to hasten lockdown exit
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seriously seriously 11:08 pm 13 Sep 21

There are some over 60s who have been advised by their GPs not to have AZ because of underlying health conditions. There’s no vaccine hesitancy there, they want to be vaccinated, but the federal govt say they can only have AZ without supplying a logical reason and ACT Health won’t consider what other states are doing to vastly improve over 60s vaccination rate………by allowing them access to Pfizer.

TimboinOz TimboinOz 12:23 pm 12 Sep 21

That the ACT’s population is amongst the most vaccinated connurbations in the nation is unsurprising, as it is among the most well-educated populations in Australia.

So, it ought to be!

So, the palms should go to all the other urban populations that are getting on with it as well!

whatwik whatwik 9:02 am 12 Sep 21

When there are young people at risk and unprotected, I’m fine with being extra, extra, extra, EXTRA cautious. As an old bastard who has had his three score years and ten, courtesy of vaccinations and a bit of luck, I find it obscene to be contemplating significantly easing restrictions when I and others are fully vaccinated and young people aren’t.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:20 am 12 Sep 21

    Except young people aren’t at risk because they almost exclusively have no or mild symptoms if they even get COVID. The amount of young people that are significantly affected is on par with many other health risks that we don’t apply anywhere near as much government intervention.

    Whilst I actually agree with you that everyone should have the chance to get Vaccinated, we are now reaching that point and all easing of restrictions is to be based on small steps, with extra freedoms for those who are fully Vaccinated.

    There’s being cautious and then there’s being deliberately unbalanced in being so risk averse in one area to a level which has never been applied in any other area.

chewy14 chewy14 6:14 pm 11 Sep 21

It would be good if Barr was more honest that he and the government are going to be extra, extra, extra cautious as they have been from the beginning rather than spinning this line around requiring a couple of extra weeks before reopening to gain the proper “vaccine protection”.

The vast majority of the Vaccinated population will have received their two doses well before the dates we hit 70/80% and will be fully protected.

The addition of the 12 and over population is also an attempt to delay what was agreed by national cabinet with extra caveats that were not included in the specific modelling scenarios.

skipper skipper 3:00 pm 11 Sep 21

With all those extra doses there’s no excuse for not giving the remaining over 60s choice. NT and SA have shown leadership in doing so but this Govn prefers to spruik the ageist message of the bullyboy Feds. If there is no vaccine hesitancy, why aren’t the over 60s closer to 100% vaccinated?

    chewy14 chewy14 11:08 pm 11 Sep 21

    Vaccine shopping.

    *facepalm*

    There are no “extra doses”, we’ve just been able to bring forward some doses due to swap deals.

    And the AZ Vaccine is perfectly safe and performing at least as well as the MRNA vaxxes, and potentially better through longevity.

    It truly is unbelievable that people who would take multiple risks daily that are higher than the AZ Vaccine somehow think its dangerous.

    skipper skipper 10:05 am 12 Sep 21

    It’s not ‘vaccine shopping’. It’s about equity. People 18-59 have a choice. The over 60s do not. If supply is not a problem now, then open up the Pfizer eligibility and get even more over 60s vaccinated. Every extra person vaccinated helps.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:14 am 12 Sep 21

    It is pure vaccine shopping by people who have been spooked by a campaign against AZ despite its tiny risks, which are even lower for older people.

    AZ is an extremely effective vaccine and in some ways superior to Pfizer or the other MRNA vaccines.

    We still do not have sufficient supplies to allow the kind of vaccine shopping you want to engage in and nor should we allow it even if we did.

    phydeaux phydeaux 1:25 pm 12 Sep 21

    “… nor should we allow it [vaccine choice] even if we did [have enough of each]”
    Interesting perspective.
    Commenting from the sidelines, I note that the risk (TGA data) of TTS in 70+ is the same as 20-29 age group and higher than the 30-39 group, so why not deny choice to those younger groups as well? Death is not the only threat from TTS. Do you assume non-death = perfect continuing health? It is hardly spoken about, but in many cases it does not. Added in Guillain-Barre cases as well? Other blood-thinning cases? TTS is not the only issue.
    If you want to look at odds ratios, and IF there were enough vaccines from which to choose, why pick the one near-infinitely more likely to kill or debilitate you than the other? I can understand the position of the few over 60s who might be hiding at home from SARS-COV2 and waiting. So can two of the State governments so far.
    Some other comparable countries do not approve Vaxzevria at all except for emergency cases. Here, it is simply a function of failure in risk planning and supply.

    chewy14 chewy14 4:37 pm 12 Sep 21

    Phydeaux,
    The difference being those younger people have a far lower chance of dying from COVID if they get it.

    Which means when we have a constrained supply, we should target the limited vaccines to where they will create the biggest benefit at the lowest risk.

    Particularly for younger people, vaccinating them at all has a significant component around providing better herd immunity for society as a whole which once again protects older people far more than younger people.

    I think that not rolling out AZ much wider to all age groups was a massive unbalanced decision from ATAGI. The COVID risk of large outbreaks is much higher as we are now seeing in Sydney and Melbourne, without even considering the widescale economic and societal impacts in other areas.

    And I should clarify my comment around not allowing choice is that this is the government providing a free vaccine to all citizens. In such a program, the medical experts should be the ones deciding how they are administered based on the evidence available.

    In the future if people are paying for their own vaccines with unconstrained supply, go nuts and choose the most effective for you based on what the government has approved.

    Maya123 Maya123 10:28 am 12 Sep 21

    Agreed. I had the AZ. The small risk of a blood clot in over 60s is small. The side effects of the first dose were uncomfortable, but I had none with the second dose.
    There is talk that mixing the vaccines might improve the effectiveness. Possibly the booster will be Moderna or Pfizer.

    “An ongoing UK trial will test various combinations of boosters, including using a different vaccine from the original inoculations. Preliminary studies of these ‘mix and match’ strategies suggest that they could lead to more robust immune responses, characterized by high levels of both antibodies and T cells, which kill infected cells and support other antiviral responses1,2,3.”

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02158-6

    Sam Oak Sam Oak 1:18 am 12 Sep 21

    Exactly, appalling that over 60s aren’t able to get vaccinated with the Pfizer. The risk of children getting serious symptoms is vanishingly small and a vaccinated 40 year old has the same chance of dying as an unvaccinated 12 year old. So why are we giving children priority? I should be getting my booster shot based on the actual risk factors.

    TimboinOz TimboinOz 12:00 pm 12 Sep 21

    I don’t get this!?

    We two – >70 – had our 2nd AZ shot a few weeks back, 12 weeks after our first.

    Is Pfizer really that much better? Or is it just that our next booster shot might best be Pfizer – but in a month or two/ three’s time (?) .

    The things about the whole Covid saga that have annoyed me are
    i) vaccine hesitancy by too many folks. It IS free, after all, and the risks are truly TINY.
    ii) the revelation that senior Public Servants and politicians are out of their depth with complex / risky problems.

    – This is, of course, to be expected for the top 2 0r 3 PS positions & for coalition pollies who are selected for their capacity to avoid and post-pone necessary change.

    Let alone design effective and stable reform.

    I used to work in Health IT – as the Risk Mgr and Electronic Commerce Strategy Team (which was, initially, just me) – for HIC / Medibank Private. This was in the middle of that immense bulk-data management crisis of 1993/94 (? CASEMIX).

    Given to us all, by/ State and Federal Government.

    We are all, as a nation, very lucky that the Internet was almost available back then, so that we could avoid using paper for billing.

    thehutch thehutch 11:13 am 12 Sep 21

    @skipper – except the vaccination rates for over 60s in the ACT are currently all over 95% for first dose. For second doses, the 60-69s are over 60%, and the over 70s are all over 80%.

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