Canberrans presided over a remarkable achievement this year.
Even without children under 12 receiving COVID-19 vaccines, ACT has become one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions in the world.
Current participation rates suggest that around 93% of Canberrans, of all ages, will be vaccinated by February – a level that could see the nation’s capital become the most vaccinated city in the world.
Still, many residents are wary as 2022 approaches, infections increase and more and more information about the Omicron variant is emerging.
The capital of socio-economic advantage
ACT was still probably the most vaccinated state or territory in Australia.
There is a very strong correlation between socio-economic benefit and the extent to which a community will be vaccinated – and well-paid and well-educated Canberra is Australia’s benefit capital.
Nonetheless, while nearly all of the Canberrans rallied around to be shot, a small number – at best, 1% of those eligible – refused or ignored the opportunity.
Who are the 1% of Canberra?
ACT officials publish little information on the demographics of COVID-19 vaccinations and infections.
However, if the government population estimates are correct, there are approximately 3,600 Canberrans aged 12 or older who are unvaccinated.
40,000 more children will become eligible in just over a week.
There is enough data to suggest that groups of people at Oaks Estate and Symonston (both near the ACT-NSW border) have lower inoculation rates than elsewhere in the Capital Region – which corresponds to what we know about socio-economic disadvantages.
More surprisingly, the relatively wealthy interior north regions may also be under-vaccinated – although, again, this assumes that the population estimates are correct.
Yet although this group of Canberrans is small in number, their vaccination status remains a vital public health challenge for ACT: 10 out of 11 people who required intensive care during the current outbreak have not been fully vaccinated.
Protection of the ACT community is fading quickly
Omicron poses a different threat to the Delta variant of the disease.
It may be milder than earlier strains, but it appears to be more resistant to vaccines.
Although there is no authoritative data on the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron, some very limited UK results are available.
If they are extrapolated to the ACT population, we get a measure of the effectiveness of protecting Canberrans, collectively, against symptomatic disease.
As this graph shows, the fact that so many Canberrans were vaccinated early means they may now be more vulnerable than Australians who left it late.
This is why the booster doses, which seem to be very effective against this new variant, are so crucial.
Until vaccines improve and we gain a better understanding of Omicron, the end of this pandemic is likely to be very distant.
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