8 September 2021

Impossible for ACT to reach vaccination threshold for all residents with no under-12 vaccine

| Dominic Giannini
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Sir Robert Menzies statue wearing a mask

Health restrictions in the ACT are expected to last until vaccination rates increase. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It would be impossible for the ACT Government to reach its 90 per cent vaccination milestone if children under the age of 12 were included in the population data, which is being championed by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Figures from ACT Health reveal that 106 per cent of residents aged over 12 – vaccines are currently only available for people above that age – would need to be inoculated to reach the coverage Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants for the Territory.

The ACT would require 95 per cent of all residents over the age of 12 to be vaccinated to reach the 80 per cent milestone outlined in the National Plan if children under the age of 12 were included in the population statistics.

More than 10 per cent of the total ACT population is under 12 years of age and not currently able to be vaccinated.

An ACT Health spokesperson said the ACT Government “is keen to see the national plan include all people who have an approved vaccine, that being people aged 12 years and over”.

The vaccination percentage is currently based on the ACT’s population aged 16 and over. If people over the age of 12 are included in this, with two vaccines now being approved for use in the 12 to 17-year-old cohort, it would take the ACT about another week to reach the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets.

The ACT is due to have 50 per cent of residents fully vaccinated this week and is predicted to reach the 80 per cent threshold by mid-November.

The additional supply of Pfizer from Commonwealth deals with Poland, Singapore and the UK, and a rebalancing of Pfizer supply to Australian jurisdictions after NSW received more vaccines per capita due to its outbreak, may expedite this slightly.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has consistently said he wants more of the ACT population vaccinated than the National Plan requires to ease restrictions. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

But Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, has warned against any expected return to normal once the 80 per cent vaccination threshold is reached, saying inconsistent vaccine uptake across states and communities will need to be considered when assessing local public health responses.

“The modelling attached to the transition plan tells us when we can expect vaccination coverage to afford a safer setting to moderate our other control measures. It will not happen exactly at 70 or 80 per cent, but progressively,” Professor Bennett said.

“Restrictions of some kind will therefore be required wherever community transmission persists until we break through these targets and … when we can safely ease back on aggressive suppression.

“We can look forward to a stepped easing of restrictions as we keep hospitalisations in check. We are already seeing hospitalisation rates suppressed by vaccination coverage in those most at-risk. We are watching this transition in motion as we battle to contain this latest wave in south-east Australia.”

None of the 34 people who have been hospitalised in the ACT during the delta outbreak has been fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people in NSW made up only 2.6 per cent of the state’s 12,355 locally acquired cases between 1 March to 21 August. More than three in four people infected during the outbreak were unvaccinated and the vaccination status of more than 10 per cent of cases remain under investigation.

Fully vaccinated people were also significantly less likely to die or be hospitalised and even more unlikely to end up in intensive care.

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So we reach 80% with the 16+ group vaccinated in mid October plus three weeks for them to gain immunity plus one more week to include a bunch of 12-15 year olds. Things will be looking good in mid November.

There is no vaccine for under 12 anywhere in the world, why would you include them in the “those that are vaccinated” count?
Interestingly, in Europe some countries are now referring to “those who are vaccinated or have been offered a vaccination” with a regime in place for those who choose not to be vaccinated to pay for regular testing to be able to engage with the rest of society.

Freedom Day
NSW has set the date.
Freedom Day 18 October ( Term and Conditions Apply )
Will the ACT beat NSW opening up earlier…?

Sorry, Dominic but I think you have missed something. The 70 and 80% targets are expressed as being the % of the population over 16yo, the so-called ‘elegible population’. Occasionally it has been pointed out that they equate to lower % of the total population, eg 80% of the ACT pop over 16yo is about 63% of the total.

Now that people over 12yo can be vaccinated, Barr, commendably, has been trying to shift the thinking to targets expressed in terms of 12yo and above. At the same time he has been seeking to shift it from ‘2nd vaccinated’ to effectively vaccinated, ie 3 weeks AFTER the 2nd jab.

I think targets should be expressed in terms of total population (or preferably both total and elegible) to account for any populations that have unusually low or high proportions of children under 12. I suspect targets set in terms of people over 12 or people over 16 will disadvantage parts of Australia with mostly aboriginal communities because of a higher proportion of children.

You should correct your story before it causes unnecessary angst, but there are other interesting aspects of these targets you could explore.

There is nothing magical around the 70% or 80% figures for above 16s used in the national plan, they are just guides to where restrictions can be eased without placing too high a burden on the health system. The modelling still includes everyone of any age.

If people now want to change who is included in the “eligible” population amounts, the overall 70%,80% numbers should be revisted and likely lowered to reflect the same level of overall population coverage achieved and the same impacts on the health system.

It’s a bait and switch attempt to change who is included without updating the % coverage targets.

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