3 April 2022

ACT Health reveals vax status of hospitalisations in new report but there's one gaping hole

| Lottie Twyford
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The Canberra Hospital

For the first time, ACT Health has revealed the vaccination status of COVID-19 hospitalisations and a geographical case breakdown. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

ACT Health has released its first detailed weekly epidemiological report on the COVID-19 situation in the ACT.

It came after Health officials claimed for a week that privacy restrictions prevented it from revealing detailed information, such as the vaccination status of individuals in hospitals.

But what’s not been included in the weekly report is the vaccination status of COVID-related deaths. As of 2 April, there have been 42 deaths with COVID in the Territory.

The vaccination status of the 11 COVID deaths in January was released to the public earlier this year.

Five had received two doses of a COVID vaccine, two had received one dose and two were unvaccinated. The vaccination status of the other was unknown.

However, a highly detailed breakdown of the vaccination status of cases in hospital since the beginning of the pandemic has been provided.

This is in response to repeated questioning by journalists last week about why this information could be provided routinely in other jurisdictions but had to be specifically requested in the Territory.

According to ACT Health, 585 people have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and 96 have been admitted to the ICU since March 2020.

Of all these COVID-19 cases admitted to the ICU, 55 per cent were unvaccinated and 43 per cent of all hospital admissions were unvaccinated.

Prior to what health authorities had previously asserted, the vaccination status of only one per cent of all hospital and ICU admissions was unknown.

table of hospitalisations by age

COVID-19 hospitalisations by age group and vaccination status since the beginning of the pandemic. Image: ACT Health/Screenshot.

ACT Health said in its report that “for the Omicron subvariant, three doses of vaccine appear to provide the greatest protection against severe disease”.

Of the most recent ICU admissions since 1 January 2022, 10 had received three doses of vaccine, 22 had received two doses of vaccine, two had received a single dose of vaccine, 11 were unvaccinated and the vaccination status for the remaining person was unknown.

Hospitalisations continue to be consistently highest in the 65-plus age group, although the rolling mean is lowest in this age group.

The report didn’t provide a detailed breakdown of age ranges beyond “65+”.

It also did not provide a breakdown of cases admitted to hospitals last week when 24 people were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19.

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Compared to its previous weekly reports, which were one page long and did not always provide comparable information week-on-week, the most recent report for the period 21 March to 27 March was 13 pages long.

Throughout the week, 7031 cases of COVID-19 were reported to ACT Health, which was a slight decrease from the previous week, but comparable to the peak of the Omicron wave in January.

The test positivity rate for PCRs remained stable at 18 to 20 per cent even though the number of tests performed increased to 20,021 from 18,792 in the previous week.

For the first time, ACT Health provided a geographical breakdown of cases since 15 December 2021. It showed 12,461 COVID-19 cases had been reported in the Belconnen region, 12,149 in Gungahlin and 10,613 in Tuggeranong.

This data largely proved COVID-19 is relatively evenly spread across the ACT.

Vanessa Johnston

Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston last week defended the department’s approach to the release of COVID-19 information. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Last week, Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said she did not believe this kind of information was in the public interest, nor was it “particularly useful” because the virus is everywhere.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the department attributed the change in weekly reporting to “the COVID-19 situation at the time, national surveillance requirements, feedback from the community and technical capability”.

They also attributed it to a change in “technical reporting capability”, which took place in November 2021 when a new notifiable disease management system was activated.

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I suspect the real issue here is ACT Health’s competency in maintaining and keeping accurate stats.
I do no believe for one minute the vaccination numbers for the ACT are as high as they make out to be. I suspect that some of our NSW neighbours are being included in the mix when they obviously shouldn’t be included in the stats.

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