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Australia People in their 20s and 30s push NSW closer to reopening

11:05  23 september  2021
11:05  23 september  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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People in their 20s and 30s are pushing NSW closer to reopening as they come forward for second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in droves.

In the week ending Tuesday, roughly one in 10 people aged between 16 and 39 in the state completed their vaccination against COVID-19, federal government data shows.

The group would have included many who received the Pfizer vaccine, as well as others who followed national vaccine advisory group ATAGI's advice to bring forward second AstraZeneca shots to four to eight weeks after the first due to the state's ongoing outbreak.

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"It was something we have been recommending from June and July, but certainly the reopening has become an incentive for younger people who are only coming to the party later to bring their doses forward," said Royal Australian College of GPs NSW/ACT chair Charlotte Hespe.

About one in five children aged 12 to 15 and about one in 10 teenagers aged 16 to 19 received a first dose during the same period.

On Thursday, NSW Chief Paediatrician Matthew O'Meara said 28 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 in the state had received their first shot, despite the vast majority only becoming eligible on September 13.

The figure equates to roughly 110,000 children in the age group partially vaccinated.

Dr O'Meara said the "remarkable" uptake indicated they were treating the vaccination as they did other childhood vaccinations, such as HPV.

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"I think it reflects the trust they have that this is a safe and effective vaccine, that has minor side effects, and it is just like getting vaccinated as they normally do in their teenage years," he said.

NSW has a statewide five-year-old vaccination rate of 95 per cent. Adolescent rates of vaccination against HPV are above 80 per cent.

James Cook University professor of infectious disease and epidemiology Emma McBryde said there was a pressing need to vaccinate children before the state reopened on the first Monday after reaching 70 per cent full vaccination.

"If they're not vaccinated, children will just sustain transmission among themselves and anyone who can't get vaccinated will be at a higher risk," she said.

At the other end of the age spectrum, roughly 95 per cent of people aged 70 to 94 have received their first dose. Double-dose rates are above 70 per cent for over-70s and as high as 80 per cent in 75 to 79-year-olds.

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On Thursday, the rate of first-dose vaccination among people aged 16 and over in NSW was 84.1 per cent. The state's second-dose rate was 55.6 per cent.

The rising rates have led many to ask when NSW will hit its 70 per cent full vaccination target, with reports on Wednesday that industry groups had been briefed by the state government for an October 11 reopening.

However, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it was a "media assumption" that October 11 was the reopening day.

To 8pm Wednesday, 1,257,041 NSW residents had received second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state passed that number of first doses on August 20, meaning people who received their second vaccination on Wednesday received their shots about five weeks apart.

Given NSW hit 70 per cent first-dose vaccination on September 2, if the average dose interval remained the same, the state would reach 70 per cent full vaccination on October 6 (a Thursday, making October 11 the Monday on which certain industries would be allowed to reopen) and 80 per cent full vaccination on October 19.

The average gap between doses in NSW has been declining over August and September, due to a greater availability of the Pfizer vaccine, generally administered three weeks apart, and more people shortening the interval between their AstraZeneca doses.

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However, hundreds of thousands of Pfizer doses from Poland administered in Sydney's local areas of concern in late August and early September are scheduled at eight-week intervals, NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce, who is leading the vaccination rollout, said.

Dose intervals for Pfizer have varied throughout the outbreak: Dr Hespe said many GPs in July and early August moved theirs to six weeks to maximise first-dose coverage during restricted supply.

Professor McBryde, who has a phD in mathematics and has conducted disease modelling during the pandemic, said determining when the state would hit the 70 per cent mark was "not rocket science" and projecting dose intervals would give a relatively accurate indication, although the variation from the Polish Pfizer could disrupt this slightly.

She said it was important for the state to set its sights on targets beyond 70 and 80 per cent.

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