Amid the worsening Covid-19 situation in Victoria, experts have called for radical changes to Australia’s coronavirus vaccination rollout, including a shift toward prioritising young Australians, who are more at risk of catching and spreading the deadly virus.
The number of cases in Victoria grew to 51 on Monday, with new reports suggesting the virus is rapidly seeping into aged care homes. The seven day snap lockdown is yet to be extended, however, the growing list of high-risk exposure sights — now over 170 venues — has to lead to fears the state could see an explosion in case numbers in the coming days.
Speaking on The Project on Sunday, University of NSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws, who is an adviser to the World Health Organisation, said it was now up to other states to step in to help out and send Pfizer vaccines to Victoria as a priority. Currently, there are limited supplies of the vaccine, which has only a three-week waiting period between doses, compared to 12 weeks for those who get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I’m calling for donations of Pfizer down to Victoria now,” she said. “If we can get everybody having their first dose now, they will start to build up a better response.”
McLaws also called for a more radical change to the rollout, saying young people need to be prioritised over older Australians because of their higher risk of spreading the virus. She said vaccinating the least vulnerable may be the best way to protect the most vulnerable.
“The group that are the greatest risk are the 20 to 39-year-olds and they’re the ones that have previously been about 40 per cent of total cases,” she said.
Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne agreed, saying those who were out and about in the community were more likely to be the ones spreading it. He said, “it’s the younger people, the Uber drivers the people out and about who are more likely to spread it”.
McLaws also addressed the frequency of Covid-19 outbreaks in Melbourne, saying the city faced unique challenges to cope with the pandemic, saying the city’s well-connected public transport system makes getting around easy and quick, while the “highly sociable” lifestyle means virus transmission is difficult to control.
Currently, those under the age of 40 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated unless they have an underlying medical condition, work in the healthcare system, or are quarantine or other high-risk workers.