COVID is far from over, health expert warns

man in mask pumping hand sanitizer

Is Australia losing the battle against COVID? And do Australians even care?

Professor Brendan Crabb, director of the Burnet Institute, believes the answers to those questions are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively.

Most states and territories are recording death and hospital admission numbers that would have horrified most just 18 months ago. Today they are usually a footnote to daily news bulletins.

Read: Could intermittent fasting help ward off COVID?

Last week, Sydney Morning Herald editor Michael Koziol wrote: “The pandemic may not be ‘over’, strictly speaking, but for most of us it’s fair to say the worst of COVID-19’s intrusions into our daily lives are now in the rear-view mirror.”

While Mr Koziol’s editorial piece is calling for a review of how the country and states handled the pandemic, Prof. Crabb says the current state of affairs needs to be dealt with.

Speaking on Channel 7’s Sunrise program last week, he said, “What the numbers say is that we’re simply not winning.”

He said Australia’s most recent wave, “was the worst wave we’ve had this year; more hospitalisations and more deaths”. Despite that, he said, Australia’s attitude is a real problem.

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“We have to change to reduce transmission, to be intolerant of the amount of virus in our community.”

Prof Crabb’s concerns are partially driven by research indicating that those who have contracted COVID twice or more have an increased risk of acute and chronic disease, and that risk accumulates with each new infection.

That is sobering news, and it has Prof. Crabb worried.

While he acknowledges the value of ‘herd immunity’, Prof. Crabb believes vaccination is the key. Numbers show that about 14.2 million Australians have received three vaccine doses, while around 4.5 million have had a fourth.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is recommending all eligible Australians – which now means anyone aged 30 or older – to get their third and/or fourth doses.

Read: Immunity for COVID cases could be slashed to 28 days

In South Australia, the latest modelling released by SA Health is forecasting another wave in November, just over two months away.

Given that previous waves have been more or less parallel between states and territories, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the rest of Australia will peak again at around the same time.

University of Adelaide Professor Joshua Ross backed up Prof. Crabb’s concerns.

“Unfortunately, this [current] immunity that reduces transmission of COVID wanes with time and hence we expect to see another wave when the immunity in the population has reduced sufficiently,” he said.

But Prof. Ross is reasonably confident that the next wave will be less severe.

“The good news is that in the absence of a new variant emerging before then, we expect the next wave to be smaller than previous waves we have experienced,” he said.

While that prediction sounds promising, it may be of little comfort to those dealing with the effects of long COVID, and those who have had to say a final goodbye to loved ones.

Have you had your fourth booster shot? Are you concerned about another COVID wave? Why not share your experience and thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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