NSW on track to hit 90 per cent first dose COVID-19 vaccination milestone

NSW is on track to have 90 per cent of its population aged 16 and over vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID-19 shot by next month.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant yesterday said she was thrilled by the uptake of vaccines, which stands at more than 84 per cent, but was confident more could be done.

“My message to the community is, ‘help each other find the right place to get vaccinated but don’t delay’,” Dr Chant said.

“I want to see us get to 90 per cent first dose by next week … I am asking everyone to redouble their efforts over the next couple of weeks so that we leave no-one behind.”

Dr Chant’s optimism is not far off the mark.

According to ABC analysis, if the current seven-day average continues, 90 per cent of those aged 16 plus would have had one COVID-19 jab on October 6.

However, as the pace has been slowing down, it is likely to be later than that.

UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine associate professor James Wood agreed the state should be “aiming as high as we can”.

“The higher we are [vaccination rates], the easier it will be to reopen and resume activities without too much interruption,” Dr Wood said.

“If we did it at 80 per cent and we just stopped there, that would be more problematic for us.”

The success stories of hotspots in Western and south-west Sydney have also given health officials hope that the target is possible.

The community in hard-hit Liverpool is now 85 per cent vaccinated with their first dose, while more than 90 per cent of residents in Blacktown and Campbelltown have received their first jab.  

Dr Wood is positive this type of enthusiasm will continue, although he would like to see more emphasis on the 16 to 40 demographic, who he says are most at risk of transmitting the disease.

He also believes the 90 per cent double vaccination rate is within reach.

“I don’t think we will have too much trouble getting to 90 per cent,” he said.

“Getting to 95 would be a real achievement, those 5 per cent will be more challenging because you’re trying to persuade those people that aren’t very keen to get vaccinated, to do so.”

Dr Wood acknowledges he’s not quite sure what life at 90 per cent would like but knows trying to contain the Delta variant that has so far resulted in 277 deaths in NSW since June 16, will take more than vaccines.

He said the experiences of countries with high vaccination rates such as Iceland and Singapore, which opened up only to have to re-impose some restrictions, raise some of the decisions Australia will soon need to tackle.

“The question of what level of infection can you tolerate in the community if people aren’t getting that sick, that’s a challenge we’re all going to have to grapple with in the next few months, as the state and country make decisions about what we’re comfortable with,” he said.

Both Iceland and Singapore are no longer seeing people getting seriously ill, despite the surge in cases after reopening. He said it is about striking a balance between the level of freedom versus disease we are happy to have.

The question of how to live with coronavirus is also one the Premier has raised in previous weeks and again yesterday.

“I will still be cautious. I don’t want to take disease home to my parents even when we open up and I think many people feel like that,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We all have to think about how we will live with it [COVID-19] and what our sense of responsibility and risk is. They are the decisions I want people to start thinking about.”

While spruiking how NSW could demonstrate to the world its vaccine prowess, Dr Chant said there is no such thing as going back to normal.

“We will not be going back to pre-COVID levels. We are always going to have to be mindful that COVID exists,” she said.

“We’re going to have to engage with booster shots, we’re going to have to engage with advice from time to time when we see outbreaks.

“We’re going to have to respond, so it’s not going to go back to normal, we can’t deny we have to live with COVID”. 

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