Australia’s roadmap to learning to live with COVID-19 became a little clearer on Tuesday afternoon, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison releasing Doherty Institute modelling showing the vaccination targets for moving to different settings and restrictions.
Mr Morrison announced at Tuesday’s press conference that 70 per cent of Australian adults aged over 16 would need to be fully vaccinated before the country could move into phase B of the roadmap.
Phase B would not mean an end to lockdowns, but would cut down on the number of strict lockdowns.
The modelling showed that having 50 to 60 per cent of the population vaccinated was nowhere near high enough to consider moving into the phase B settings.
The phase B settings aim to use “low-level restrictions” to minimise serious illness and fatalities from COVID-19, while the international arrivals cap would be restored to previous levels for unvaccinated travellers.
There would also be an increased capacity for vaccinated travellers to return home.
Phase B would also allow for an easing of restrictions on vaccinated residents.
The modelling also showed that older Australians will play a key role in moving to phase C, with around 90 per cent of those aged over 60 expected to be vaccinated before progressing to that step.
The Doherty Institute figures also show that there is a need for an increased uptake of the AstraZeneca vaccine to combat the threat the Delta strain poses to Australia.
“Full AstraZeneca vaccine coverage is comparable to full Pfizer coverage in reducing death and hospitalisation, and health advice recommends adults under the age of 60 should consider getting AstraZeneca,” the official modelling document stated.
Professor Jodie McVernon from the Doherty Institute said that Australia has access to two highly effective vaccines, which left the country in a strong position.
“What we are delighted to see and what really supports the use of both of the vaccines that we have in Australia is both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses are highly effective at reducing severe disease outcomes following two doses,” Prof. McVernon said.
She said the Pfizer vaccine resulted in an 87 per cent reduction in hospitalisations, an 87 per cent reduction in ICU admissions and a 92 per cent reduction in fatalities, while the AstraZeneca vaccine resulted in an 86 per cent reduction in hospitalisations and ICU admissions and a 90 per cent reduction in fatalities.
Mr Morrison said the phase B stage of the national plan of dealing with COVID could provide more freedom to those who had received their vaccinations and that such a move was common sense.
“Phase B of the plan is that if you are vaccinated you can be exempt from various restrictions that might otherwise apply because of public health reasons,” Mr Morrison said. “Because you have taken steps to protect your health and the health of those around you.
“If you’re not vaccinated you present a greater public health risk. This is about managing public health risks. It’s common sense.”
For Australia to move to Phase C of the plan, called the consolidation phase, the country would need to achieve vaccination rates of 80 per cent or above.
Under the consolidation phase, public health management of COVID-19 would be consistent with other health infections and no requirement for lockdowns.
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