About 1.6 million people in Queensland remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 as the state prepares to open borders to inoculated travelers flying in from intergovernmental virus hotspots.
- The Queensland government is expected today to announce how people can start applying for border passports
- An infectious disease expert is concerned that the virus will spread rapidly once border rules are relaxed
- About 1.6 million Queensland residents are unvaccinated, including children aged 11 and under
Queensland crashed through the 70 per cent double vaccination target for those aged 16 and over yesterday, signaling a easing of border restrictions.
While welcoming the move to reunite families, infectious disease expert Robert Booy warned of the “very real risk of transmission chains starting and spreading dangerously” with so many people still getting a single COVID jab.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk will outline when people can start applying for border passes under the lenient restrictions at a news conference today.
However, only individuals who have received two doses of a COVID vaccine, have tested negative for the virus in the previous 72 hours and can safely quarantine for 14 days will be eligible to fly in from intergovernmental hotspots.
Federal government data shows that 81.99 percent of Queensland’s population aged 16 and older – or 3.37 million people – have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 70.25 percent have received two shots.
A further 156,000 Queensland residents aged 12 to 15 have been given a jab and 103,000 have been fully vaccinated.
But it still leaves about 1.6 million Queensland residents who have not yet received a single dose of a COVID vaccine, which includes children 11 years and younger.
Australia is not expected to start vaccinating children under 12 until next year.
Encouragement to extend the vaccine mandate to teachers
Professor Booy of the University of Sydney said Queensland still has “a significant minority of people at risk and unvaccinated”.
He joined the Australian Medical Association’s State President Chris Perry and called on Sunshine State to extend COVID-19 vaccine mandates to include teachers, given how easily the virus can spread from children to adults.
“A teacher as young as in his 30s has four times the risk of severe COVID compared to a teenager they teach,” Professor Booy said.
“A teacher in their 50s has a 40 times greater risk of severe COVID compared to a teenager they teach.
“I do not think the booster shots need to be mandatory, but once people have been safely vaccinated, confidence is built, confidence increases, and they feel safe by having a booster as well.”
Dr. Perry said the AMA’s biggest concern was “the disproportionate number of aborigines that have not been vaccinated”.
The ear, nose and throat surgeon, who has worked extensively in First Nations communities, said he was concerned about unvaccinated native patients flooding the hospital’s intensive care units when Queensland opened up for Christmas.
Indigenous people are considered to be particularly vulnerable to the virus due to high incidences of chronic disease.
“With so many elderly people who are unvaccinated and so many people living in one household, they can easily overwhelm our system,” said Dr. Perry.
New tribes may emerge in neighboring countries
As the rollout of the Queensland vaccine continues, Mater Health Services Director of Infectious Diseases Paul Griffin joined Professor Booy, urging the federal government to increase Australia’s supplies of free COVID shots to developing countries in Asia and the Pacific.
“No one is safe until everyone is, and there are many countries that have had very little access to these vaccines,” said Dr. Griffin, an associate professor at the University of Queensland.
“The situation there is very challenging and it poses a direct risk to Australia, in addition to the fact that they are obviously trying to do the right thing for these countries. We should try to do more.”
Professor Booy said experts were concerned about more dangerous variants of SARS-CoV-19, the virus that causes COVID-19 to appear in countries with low vaccination rates.
“We will get COVID to return to bite us because the ongoing transfer abroad in the Pacific and in Asia will lead to ongoing mutation and the potential for a variant that vaccines and drugs do not work against,” he said.
“We’re giving millions of doses away. I think we have to give away tens of thousands of doses.
“The government is doing well, but it can do so much better. By helping our neighbors, we are helping ourselves.”
Despite Queensland reaching the 70 per cent double vaccination target for those aged 16 and over yesterday, it follows all other states except Western Australia (69.77 per cent) when it comes to the number of residents who have received two COVIDs. shot.
But after a strong vaccination rally over the weekend, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath praised Queenslanders for “kicking this out of the park”.
“We are definitely on track to not only reach our 80 percent goal as well, but to reach the 90 percent goal,” Ms D’Ath said.
“We are well on our way to seeing 90 per cent of eligible Queenslanders get their first dose before Christmas.”
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