63% of Hunter population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19

ON THE JAB: People line up for vaccinations in Hamilton. Picture: Simone De Peak
ON THE JAB: People line up for vaccinations in Hamilton. Picture: Simone De Peak

An estimated 63 per cent of the entire Hunter population is vaccinated as chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant calls on more teenagers to roll up their sleeves.

A Newcastle Herald analysis shows that about 408,000, or 76.4 per cent, of the Hunter's 534,000 residents aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.

Using the NSW average of 35 per cent, about 11,500 of the region's 33,000 children aged 12 to 15 have also received both doses.

The Hunter's estimated 63 per cent overall coverage compares with a NSW rate of 66.6 per cent and national coverage of 55.7 per cent.

The vaccines are not yet approved for children under 12, but Dr Chant would like to see more high school students vaccinated as most face-to-face learning resumes next week. She said the 74.8 per cent first-dose rate and 35.3 full vaccination rate in the 12 to 15 age group was "very pleasing".

"With school returning, the 12- to 15-year-olds have got vaccinated at a very high rate, but we are seeing that slowing a little bit," she said.

"So could we just get that last 25 per cent of the 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated. It's one additional layer of protection as schools go back and we get added mixing."

The NSW first-dose rate for that age range has moved less than one percentage point in the past three days.

Dr Chant said the 92 per cent first-dose rate in the adult population was impressive but the state should target 95 per cent, a figure already achieved in the Hunter.

Case numbers have spiked in the region in the past month, and Dr Chant remained concerned despite a fall in the daily case count to 35 on Tuesday.

"We're seeing cases increase in regional areas," she said. "We're seeing cases in Hunter New England, around Lake Macquarie, in Wollongong."

Hunter New England Health public health controller Dr David Durrheim described Tuesday's numbers as "encouraging" but said vaccination rates were equally promising.

"This is really critical as the state is going to be opening up in just two weeks' time," he said, referring to the return of regional travel to and from Sydney on November 1.

While many areas had begun to race towards full vaccination, Dr Durrheim said there were a "few laggards".

"We see that Newcastle in the younger people is lagging behind ... and in Muswellbrook we've seen a slow increase now that the vaccine is available."

Dr Chant said unvaccinated people would be forced to make individual decisions about their exposure to the virus once vaccination rates peaked and most restrictions fell away on December 1.

AAP reports: A leading epidemiologist has warned Christmas will be a coronavirus super-spreading event which could push major health systems to the brink.

The University of Melbourne's Tony Blakely believes the festive season will lead to a rise in coronavirus infections in states and territories with the virus.

With more borders due to open before December 25, cases are expected alongside high vaccination coverage.

"Christmas will be a super-spreader event," Professor Blakely told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

He said Queensland, which has named December 17 as the date to allow quarantine-free arrivals from states with the virus, would cope initially with reopening.

"Unlike us in Victoria, NSW and ACT, we've already got the virus, so Christmas may well be a super-spreader event that goes beyond what the health services can cope with."

More travel restrictions are beginning to lift. Trips between Canberra and Sydney will be allowed from November 1. Quarantine-free international travel into NSW will start on the same day, while Australians will be allowed to leave the country without special permission.

Queensland is aiming to keep interstate borders open permanently when it hits 80 per cent double-dose adult vaccination coverage, expected about a week before Christmas.

Western Australia appears almost certain to retain tough travel restrictions until into next year.

The state has the nation's worst vaccination rate, 56.5 per cent of over-16 residents fully protected.

Tasmania, which is on the cusp of 70 per cent double-dose coverage, is holding out on borders until the island hits 90 per cent.

South Australia has not confirmed when borders will reopen, but Premier Steven Marshall wants to ease restrictions before Christmas.

Australia broke through 85 per cent first-dose vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and above on Tuesday, and 69.2 per cent of them are fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia had overtaken the US in population-wide vaccine coverage.

"We are on the track now to ensure that we have one of the world's highest vaccination rates," Mr Morrison told Parliament.

The five countries with the highest overall double-dose vaccine coverage in the world are Portugal (86.4 per cent), United Arab Emirates (85.3), Singapore (79.4), Spain (79.2) and Chile (74.8).

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This story 63% of Hunter population now fully vaccinated first appeared on Newcastle Herald.