The surprising age group that will ‘save’ Australia from Covid-19

·News Reporter
·3-min read

One of the nation's leading epidemiologists has called on the government to do more to convince young Australians to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.

UNSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is a World Health Organisation advisor, said it was vital more was done to convince people aged between 20 and 30 to come forward for the vaccine amid waning public support for inoculation after the emergence of rare blood clotting complications with the AstraZeneca jab. 

"We should be talking about how do we get the 20 and 30-year-olds vaccinated because they represent up to 40 per cent of all cases last year," she told ABC Breakfast on Monday.

She said the age group needs to be motivated to take the jab, and should be told "they are heroes" by doing so.

"They are going to save us and that is true," Prof McLaws said.

She said it was vital fear surrounding the vaccine was dispelled and mixed-messaging around their safety needed to stop.

"Every vaccine does have some risk, but it is so small compared to the risk for the 20-39 -year-olds acquiring COVID-19 and spreading it," Prof McLaws said.

Mary-Louise McLaws says young Australian adults will play a key role in how successful the vaccine rollout is. Source: Getty
Mary-Louise McLaws says young Australian adults will play a key role in how successful the vaccine rollout is. Source: Getty

"So we need to tell them that we are forever grateful for what they going to do for the country."

How many need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity

Experts have continuously warned Australia will only be able to open its borders once herd immunity is achieved.

According to a recent paper published by UNSW epidemiologist Professor Raina MacIntyre, 75 per cent of a population would need to be vaccinated for a vaccine with 80 per cent efficacy to achieve herd immunity.

An entire population would need to be vaccinated if efficacy is as low as 60 per cent.

Recent research has indicated the AstraZeneca is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

Recent Public Health England research found the Pfizer jab was 88 per cent effective at stopping symptomatic disease from the now dominant Indian strain in the UK, while the AstraZeneca was much lower at 60 per cent.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends the Pfizer jab over AstraZeneca jab for adults aged under 50 years due to the rare blood clotting side-effects.

Yet Australia's vaccine rollout has been plagued by complications and has fallen significantly behind schedule.

Australia's ambitious vaccine pledge

About 3.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have so far been administered, through a mix of AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs – well behind the targets previously set.

However the government is now promising two million doses of Pfizer will arrive in Australia each week from the start of October. 

The Department of Health had previously promised all adults will have been offered a jab by the same month. 

The latest pledge could see every Australian who wants protection from COVID-19 could be fully immunised by the end of this year.

Physician Dr Norman Swan, the face of the ABC's coronavirus coverage, said the government was "dreaming". He predicted it will be well into 2022 when all adults will have been offered a vaccine.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the significantly increased doses was the government's hope but stopped short of making a firm commitment.

"There have been many uncertainties in the vaccine rollout to date and we need to continue to be honest about the fact we can't control every aspect of global supply," he said.

"We can't control whether there are unexpected impacts in relation to health or other factors or advice that impact the vaccine rollout."

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