Australians will likely be stuck with snap Covid lockdowns and rolling restrictions even as vaccination numbers rise – while the rest of the world gets on with life.
Anti-vaccination hysteria and new virus variants mean the nation is unlikely to achieve herd immunity any time soon, a new study conducted by the Burnet Institute concluded.
Therefore, researchers believe preventative protocols like mask wearing and social distancing, as well as ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns like those utilised in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia will likely remain the norm.
Australians will likely continue having to endure snap Covid lockdowns even as vaccination numbers rise. Pictured: Australian swimmer Cate Campbell receiving her Pfizer vaccine
Australians could be encouraged to take the vaccine if the government followed the US and allowed fully vaccinated people to skip mandatory quarantine. Pictured: Families reunited when the border between New Zealand and Australia was dropped in April
Preventative protocols like mask wearing and social distancing, as well as ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns like those previously utilised in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia will likely remain the norm for Australians moving forward. Pictured: A usually busy Melbourne arcade during lockdown
‘You can’t just say, “we’re vaccinated, let it rip guys”, Burnet Institute deputy director Margaret Hellard said.
‘There will be occasions where we will need to be aware that we need to be tested and we’d still need restrictions.’
Ms Hellard said the Federal Government’s goal to vaccinate 80 per cent of Australia’s adult population would also be challenging, given a healthy – and vocal – minority of about 30 per cent have expressed a resistance to the jab.
In Australia alone, a suspected 48 people have had adverse reactions to the AstraZeneca jab – which is the only dose on offer for over-50s.
Two Australians have died from a severe blood clotting disorder after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The risk remains extremely low but a growing group are opting to wait for a different vaccine out of fear.
Melburnians have just escaped their fourth Covid lockdown, but plenty of restrictions will remain in place. Pictured: Diners on the first day of eased restrictions, June 11
There are concerns about the reward for getting vaccinated, particularly if lockdowns are likely to continue and borders will remain closed, Pictured: Families reunited after border closures
There are also concerns about the reward for getting vaccinated, particularly if lockdowns are likely to continue and borders will remain closed.
Murdoch University professor of immunology Cassandra Berry told the ABC the Government might have more luck encouraging the Australian public to get vaccinated if they followed the US approach.
Over there, a fully vaccinated person is not required to undergo mandatory quarantine – even if they’ve been directly exposed to the virus as long as they’re not displaying any symptoms.
Similarly, they’re not required to self isolate after travelling internationally or interstate.
‘I’m not convinced everybody can see the benefit of being vaccinated. If people [in Australia] got that message, if they were fully vaccinated, they may still have their freedom and not need to go into isolation,’ Professor Berry said.
In the United States, a fully vaccinated person is not required to self isolate after travelling internationally or interstate – an incentive that could boost vaccination numbers in Australia
Pictured: Two women reunited after borders reopened between Australia and New Zealand
She said it was likely Australia’s rules would also update as time goes on and more people get the jab.
The Australian Government has placed an urgent order for more Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but they aren’t expected to arrive until late this year.
Moderna is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association.
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said Australians should be prepared for up to 10 more lockdowns before those vaccines are widely distributed in the community, based on modelling over the past eight months.
‘Since November, we’ve had on average of one quarantine leak every 11 days, and that’s continuing,’ he told ABC.
‘In that time [of four or five months to distribute the new doses], we’ll have at least 10 more quarantine leaks and lockdowns and border closures.’
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said Australians should be prepared for up to 10 more lockdowns before those vaccines are widely distributed in the community, based on modeling over the past eight months. Pictured: Victorians on the first day out of their fourth lockdown
Australians might be incentivised to get the jab if they know it would grant them access to more travel and freedoms
According to Dr Nick Scott, the Burnet Institute’s Head of Modelling, thousands of Australians would die if public health measures weren’t followed before achieving complete herd immunity.
‘Those who are vaccinated would be protected and may only experience mild or no symptoms. But among those not vaccinated – possibly up to 30 per cent of the community – we could see a large number of hospitalisations and deaths, as well as many cases of ‘long Covid’,’ he said in the report.
‘We found that if the virus enters the community when 60 per cent vaccine coverage has been reached and is left unchecked, we could see 4,885 deaths in Victoria within a year if no public health responses are introduced,’ Dr Scott said.
If 95 per cent of the community were vaccinated, that number immediately plummets to 1,346, even with no other preventative measures.
Ms Hellard said the government’s goal to vaccinate 80 per cent of Australia’s adult population would also be challenging, given a healthy – and vocal – minority of about 30 per cent have expressed a resistance to the jab
Fully vaccinated Australians argue they ‘should be rewarded’
The small percentage of Australians who are fully immunised against Covid are urging the government to outline how that will benefit them in the immediate future.
Ed Cook, a 23-year-old Sydneysider who originally hails from Melbourne, is one of just 2.6 per cent of Australians who is fully vaccinated against Covid.
He’s proposed the government allow people like him to evade border closures if they’re able to return a negative Covid test.
He understands it’s too soon to grant complete travel freedoms given so few people are protected, but claims a small incentive could encourage more people to step up and get the jab as soon as they’re able to do so.
Another incentive would be to exempt fully vaccinated people from border closures all together.
‘That would be a really great incentive as well – to say to people: if you are fully vaccinated you do get freedoms. [But] it’s hard to offer incentives like that until everyone is eligible,’ he said.
Meanwhile Reece Cordy, a Melbourne anaesthetic doctor, said his Covid vaccine has done little to make his life any easier, particularly during Melbourne’s brutal Covid lockdowns.
‘I’m been fully vaccinated for over 10 weeks,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I’ve still been in lockdown for the last two weeks, every state has closed its borders to me travelling there, I still can’t travel overseas and no one has attempted to articulate when it will change.’