Fears that Australia’s COVID vaccines may not be effective against the highly contagious Delta variant have been largely dispelled by health authorities in the UK – where the vaccination rollout has been soundly applauded.
Health services across the UK administered 67,287,864 vaccines between 8 December and 5 June, including 40,124,229 first doses (76.2 per cent of the population) and 27,160,635 second doses (51.6 per cent).
Australia is significantly behind that pace. According to ourworldindata.org, 5.02 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of 6 June. A total of 568,000, or 2.2 per cent of the population, have received two doses.
Rollout difficulties have been widely reported, prompting the announcement yesterday that the army’s Lieutenant General John ‘JJ’ Frewen will lead a new COVID-19 vaccination taskforce to direct a “military-style scale-up phase” of the rollout”.
But for anyone who is hesitating about stepping up for a vaccine in Australia in the belief it is not effective against the Delta variant, which has been detected in 15 people in two active clusters in Victoria, the news is better.
Nine reports that fully vaccinated people make up only a fraction of those being hospitalised in the UK with the Delta variant. Of 12,383 people infected with the variant, which is creating challenges for Victorian health authorities during the latest lockdown, 464 sought hospital care and 126 were admitted.
Of those who were admitted to hospital, 83 had not been vaccinated at all, 28 had received only one shot and just three had been fully vaccinated with two doses.
The Delta mutation is believed to be 40 per cent more contagious than the previously dominant UK variant, which also had a higher level of transmissibility than the original virus which caused tens of thousands of deaths in the UK last year.
But a jubilant UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced in Parliament this week: “The jabs are working.
“Despite the rise in cases, hospitalisations have been broadly flat,” he said. “The majority of people in hospital with COVID appear to be those who haven’t had the vaccine at all.
“We should all be reassured by this because it shows those vaccinated groups who previously made up the vast majority of hospitalisations are now in the minority.
“We have to keep people coming forward to get them and that includes, vitally, that second jab which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant.”
Preliminary analysis by Public Health England into the Delta variant suggests there might be a 17 per cent drop-off in the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, but only “a modest reduction” in effectiveness after two doses, Nine reports.
The ABC explains that the Delta variant is the most recently designated variant of concern, as classified by the World Health Organization (WHO), and is believed to show:
- increased transmissibility or detrimental change in epidemiology
- increased virulence or change in disease presentation
- decreased effectiveness of prevention and control measures.
Read more: What to do after you receive your COVID jab
As Victorian authorities flag an easing of restrictions on Thursday night, Acting Premier James Merlino has taken another swipe at hotel quarantine following confirmation that the outbreak started with an infected Melbourne returnee.
“We all know that hotel quarantine cannot be made risk-free,” he said. “Hotels are built for tourists, not for managing infectious diseases.
“There have been at least 21 breaches in hotel quarantine right around this country. Just in the last month, we have seen three outbreaks, one in South Australia and two in WA.”
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