22 July 2022

ACT records 891 COVID-19 infections, 86th death; 'vax-loving' Canberrans turn out for fourth dose

| Lottie Twyford
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Rachel Stephen-Smith flu shot

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith received her flu shot earlier this year at a community pharmacy. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The ACT has recorded 891 (480 PCR and 411 RAT) COVID-19 infections in the last reporting period to 8 pm last night as demand for boosters picks up locally.

A man in his 80s has become the 86th person to die with the virus since the pandemic began.

There are 152 people with COVID-19 in the ACT’s hospitals today. Four of them are in the ICU but no one requires ventilation.

Last week, anyone aged 30 and older became eligible for a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine following changes in advice from the nation’s vaccine advisory body, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

A fourth dose is specifically recommended for people over the age of 50.

Earlier this month, ATAGI said it wouldn’t recommend a dose for people younger than 30 as it “was not clear whether the benefits outweighed the risks in this population group”.

That change has meant pharmacies – who are now delivering the bulk of the vaccine roll-out along with GPs – are seeing an increase in demand.

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Pharmacists say the surge in demand is particularly evident in the 50-plus age group, although some younger people (between 30 and 49) are coming in to get vaccinated.

Some people are facing wait times of up to a month but Pharmacy Guild of Australia ACT branch president Simon Blacker said this tends to vary between about two and four weeks.

“I’m not hearing there’s any pushback from people or them becoming upset or disgruntled when they are asked to wait a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Patients might be a bit surprised, but they are understanding, and we’re all pretty used to pre-booking and waiting for things now.”

Mr Blacker says the spike in demand was unsurprising following ATAGI’s changed advice.

“We’ve all seen by now that Canberrans love a vaccine.”

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Mr Blacker suggests people shop around or try their GP if they are concerned about long wait times.

Like the hospital and other industries, pharmacies are also managing workload pressures as staff are forced to take time off with an illness or to care for someone with one.

But Mr Blacker expects things to settle down in the next few weeks as the booster roll-out continues and it becomes a more “normal” vaccination program.

Despite reducing the COVID-19 reinfection period to 28 days, ATAGI recommends people wait three months between a COVID-19 infection and their next vaccination.

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There are now 6301 (3490 PCR and 2811 RAT) known active infections in the Territory and a total of 183,150 (109,012 PCR and 74,138 RAT) COVID-19 cases have been recorded since the pandemic began in March 2020.

As of today, ACT Health has adjusted its vaccination reporting.

Of the population aged between 5 and 15 years, 77.6 per cent of residents have received two doses. 77.2 per cent of the ACT’s 16-plus population has received three doses and 42.7 per cent of the Territory’s population aged over 50 has received four shots.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 15 deaths overnight and 18,669 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 2202 people in hospital with the virus and 15 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 25 deaths overnight and 12,278 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 840 people hospitalised with the virus and 33 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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I question the wait time of up to a month for the fourth dose. A mate told me he got his as a walk-in at a pharmacy in Belconnen Westfield so I dropped into my local pharmacy in Crace this week and got it within 5 minutes.

I walked in to a chemist last Monday for the fourth jab. Longest part of the wait was the paperwork.

I think the issue is that when you book inline, you join a preset queue spaced at 15-minute intervals; that also makes provision for post jab waiting time to ensure you don’t have an anaphylactic episode etc.

Our local pharmacy is in a busy “regional” shopping centre and there was a
1-month waiting time. We ended up getting our Boosters at a smaller pharmacy and had a 5-day wait.

With the walk-in approach, it is hit and miss. You might get jabbed or you might not.

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