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Pfizer vaccinations for 16 to 39-year-olds is welcome news. But AstraZeneca remains a good option

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced the

Pfizer

vaccine would become available to all Australians aged 16 to 39 from August 30.

This represents a vote of confidence in our vaccine supply, which has been riddled with issues since the rollout began. It gives us a fighting chance to reach current targets, which suggest 70% of eligible Australians could be fully vaccinated by November, and 80% by December.

Importantly, given what we know about the high rates of COVID infections in younger people, and the significant role they’re playing in transmission, this is good news. Boosting vaccination rates in this group will be a crucial step towards controlling the virus.

And with some young adults in different states already eligible for the Pfizer vaccine (depending on where they live, their job, and so on), this move will hopefully serve to reduce confusion.

Why vaccinating younger adults is important

Throughout New South Wales’ current COVID outbreak, we’ve heard young people are being disproportionately infected. We’re hearing this in Victoria too.

In part, this is because this group is generally more mobile, both in the nature of their work and social lives. Of course, the latter shouldn’t be relevant under lockdown conditions, but younger adults are also more likely to live in shared households with essential workers from different workplaces.

While 20 to 39-year-olds have made up the highest proportion of cases throughout the pandemic, the growing numbers of older adults now vaccinated could go some way to explaining why younger adults and children are making up an even greater proportion of infections of late.

Worryingly, data from the NSW outbreak also suggests young people are making up a higher proportion of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Given young adults make up a high number of cases, it follows they are big drivers of transmission. The Doherty Institute’s recent modelling described young and working age adults as “peak transmitters” of COVID-19, and advocated vaccinating people in their 20s and 30s would reduce overall spread.

It made sense to prioritise people at highest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, as well as those in high-risk jobs, for vaccination earlier on. But there’s a fair bit of catch up to do now to get these younger age groups vaccinated.

For example, 33.5% of 35 to 39-year-olds have received one dose of a COVID vaccine, compared to 86.1% of 75 to 79-year-olds. Some 25% of 25 to 29-year olds have had a first dose, compared to 76.1% of 65 to 69-year-olds.

Opening up Pfizer for everyone aged 16 to 39 will allow us to boost numbers in those younger age groups and in turn, reduce infections and transmission.

Don’t dismiss

AstraZeneca


This news should be impetus for anyone currently eligible for Pfizer who hasn’t got it yet (predominantly adults in their 40s and 50s) to make an appointment as soon as possible. Because it’s only going to get harder once millions more people become eligible.

For people aged 16 to 39 who are champing at the bit for a Pfizer vaccine, it’s important to be aware you probably won’t be able to get one the day bookings open. It may well be that you have to wait weeks for an appointment.

So if you were already considering getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, or if you’ve already booked an appointment, stick with that.

It’s a highly effective vaccine, the risk of any complication is incredibly small, and the benefits are significant – particularly in areas like Sydney, where we’re seeing high community transmission and young people fighting the virus in ICU.

What about a ‘mix and match’ approach?

While supply of Pfizer is increasing, and we expect to start receiving Moderna next month, daily demand for these mRNA vaccines is still outpacing supply.

One possible way to address this would be to give some people a first dose of AstraZeneca, and then a second dose of Pfizer. This would allow us to start vaccinating more people sooner and stretch the Pfizer supply further.

This “mix and match” approach is already being explored in a number of countries. Data are showing not only is it effective, but it could provide better protection than two doses of the same vaccine.

Ensuring everyone has the rights that come with vaccination

Vaccination is becoming increasingly important, not only in the face of current Delta outbreaks, but for personal movements and freedoms as rules are introduced that recognise the lower risk of infection among the vaccinated.

For example, people travelling from NSW into Western Australia need to prove they’ve had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Meanwhile, some countries around the world are requiring proof of vaccination to visit the likes of museums, cinemas and to dine indoors – activities that might not be open at all in the absence of vaccination.

Broadening the vaccine rollout to younger people now ensures they will have time to access vaccination and won’t be disadvantaged by any such rules down the track.

(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)

COVID-19: Indian women’s cricket team’s schedule for Australia could be altered

The Indian women cricket team’s schedule for the upcoming tour of Australia could be altered due to the border restriction and COVID-19 lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, according to a media report. India and Australia are set to battle it out across all three formats from next month.

The schedule includes three One-Day Internationals, as many Twenty20 Internationals and a historic day-night Test match at the WACA Ground.

The series is slated to begin with the first ODI in Sydney on September 19, before moving to Melbourne and Perth.

“But the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne as well as state border closures make that unlikely,” cricket.co.au reported.

“Cricket Australia is currently speaking with government authorities about how, where and when the seven games can be played.

“…an announcement expected shortly regarding changes to the seven-match schedule,” the report added.

Cricket Australia had said it is monitoring the situation.

“Due to the current COVID challenges, Cricket Australia will continue to monitor the situation right across the country and will consider whether or not it needs to make any decisions regarding rescheduling or moving matches in due course,” it said last week.

The Indian team is slated to leave for Australia on Sunday.

All international arrivals have to undergo a two-week quarantine, according to the COVID-19 protocols in Australia.

Australian players from New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria would also need to quarantine before the series if the matches are scheduled for another state.

Speaking last week, Australia skipper Meg Lanning said her players were ready to move at a moment’s notice once the schedule is locked in.

“Things change very quickly these days. To be honest, every player within the squad is ready to move around at any point, we know how quickly things can change.

“At this stage, we’re just planning on the schedule going ahead as it is and heading into a camp before that. But we also have got information that things could potentially change really quickly so we need to be ready for that,” she added.

Sydney to face prolonged COVID-19 lockdown amid record 2021 cases

Australian authorities on Friday pleaded with Sydney residents to stay at home, warning a three week lockdown may be extended as they struggle to control a COVID-19 outbreak, with the city reporting its the biggest rise in local cases for the year.

Hundreds of extra police patrolled parts of Sydney to enforce the city’s lockdown orders imposed to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious

Delta

variant which now has a total of more than 400 cases.

“New South Wales (state) is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “At the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction.”

“Please do not leave your house. Do not leave your home, unless you absolutely have to,” Berejiklian said.

Fourty-four locally acquired cases were reported on Friday in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, eclipsing 38 a day earlier, with 29 of those having spent time in the community while infected. There are currently 43 cases in hospital, with 10 people in intensive care, four of whom require ventilation.

The rise in cases is despite a two week lockdown which has now been extended to a third week ending July 16.

Authorities will tighten restrictions in Sydney from Friday evening with public gatherings limited to two people and residents limited to within 10 kms (6 miles) of their home.

Berejiklian also rejected reports the government was considering a shift of policy to “living with the virus”, citing low vaccine coverage in Australia.

“If we choose to live with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9%, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and deaths,” Berejiklian said.

Although Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, its vaccination rollout has been among the slowest due to supply constraints and changing medical advice for its mainstay

AstraZeneca

shots.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Pfizer would increase COVID-19 vaccine delivery to about one million doses a week from July 19, more than tripling current shipments, as Sydney battles its worst outbreak of this year.

“We’ve had challenges over the course of the last four months but we’re hitting those (vaccination rate) marks now,” Morrison told broadcaster Nine News.

Pfizer said the total number of 40 million doses it is contracted to deliver to Australia over 2021 had not changed. Morrison said Pfizer was bringing forward vaccine deliveries to Australia from September to August.

Jamal Rifi, a general practitioner from Western Sydney, the epicentre of the current outbreak, said many residents had misunderstood the Delta variant risk but were gaining awareness as infection rates rose.

“Many members of the local community have been identified as sufferers of the virus and many loved ones are in hospital or even ICU,” said Rifi.

“The word has spread in the community and I reckon you’ll see more people now limiting their movement, taking this Delta variant more seriously.”

Tornado lashes Australia, leaving hundreds without power

A tornado tore through Australia‘s rural southeast on Thursday, ripping roofs off houses, uprooting trees, toppling power lines and causing minor injuries, authorities said.

Police and ambulance crews were called to Meadow Flat, a town of 300 people near the regional centre of Bathurst, following reports of a tornado destroying a house just after noon, the emergency services said.

A man was taken to hospital with cuts to his arm. About 20 minutes later, the crews went to Clear Creek, with a population of about 100, about 30 km (20 miles) away, where a man and a woman were treated for minor injuries, the New South Wales ambulance service said.

“There have been reports of damaged houses, power lines and trees,” Bureau of Meteorology forecaster for New South Wales (NSW) Agata Imielska said in a video interview distributed to media.

The tornado was part of a weather system crossing Australia’s most populous state and causing thunder storms, Imielska said.

The NSW State Emergency Service issued a warning for people to secure loose items outside their homes.

The tornado upended power lines and blew part of an iron roof into electricity wires, triggering an automatic power outage for 164 homes, said Essential Energy.

“Crews are working as quickly as safety allows to clear debris and carry out repairs to the network, however there is no restoration time available at present,” a spokesperson said in a statement.