The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is “making a comeback” as Australia maps its way out of rolling lockdowns, according to Scott Morrison.
The prime minister and and state and territory leaders gave in-principle backing to a four-phase pathway for the country to ease restrictions on Friday.
It’s based on first achieving a vaccination rate of 70 per cent, with the AZ jab necessary to reach those levels, Mr Morrison told 2GB radio in Sydney on Saturday.
About 18 per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated.
Mr Morrison said AstraZeneca has been “talked down for a long time” but the jabs are especially vital in greater Sydney, as the city deals with a worsening outbreak and prolonged lockdown.
NSW reported 210 new locally acquired virus cases on Saturday. At least 32 of them were circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
The AZ jab has not been the preferred option for people under 50 due to a very rare blood clot side effect but younger people are now turning to the vaccine and an AZ-only walk-in clinic in Sydney’s southwest opened at Bankstown on Saturday.
Mr Morrison also said there would be enough vaccines for the country to reach the 70 per cent level by Christmas.
Meanwhile Queensland has imposed a snap three-day lockdown with six new cases reported on Saturday, while Sydney and surrounding regions remain in lockdown until at least the end of next month.
According to the plan agreed to on Friday, when the rate of fully vaccinated Australians reaches 70 per cent, lockdowns will be possible but unlikely, with low-level restrictions favoured to minimise serious illness, hospitalisation and deaths.
International passenger arrivals would return to levels before the Delta strain prompted them being halved to about 3000 a week.
When vaccination rates reach 80 per cent, city-wide lockdowns are expected to end with restrictions to be targeted to protect outbreaks among vulnerable populations.
Fully vaccinated residents will be exempt from all domestic restrictions, while caps on returning Australians will be abolished.
People who have received both jabs will be allowed to travel overseas and travellers from countries with high vaccination rates will be given the green light to enter.
The four-phase plan for reaching ‘COVID normal’
- Suppression phase: Current state of play. States can put in place early and short lockdowns to deal with COVID-19.
- Transition phase: The national average for the vaccination program as a percentage of eligible adults is achieved nationally (70 per cent) and each state itself has individually achieved the threshold. States seek to minimise serious illness, hospitalisation and fatalities with low-level restrictions. Lockdowns are less likely but still possible. Vaccinated Australians returning from overseas will have access to more quarantine options.
- Consolidation phase: When the 80 per cent vaccination threshold is met. Minimum restrictions with highly targeted lockdowns. Exempt vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions. Abolish caps on returning vaccinated Australians and lift outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated Australians.
- Final phase: No vaccination target has been recommended. Opening international borders. Quarantine for high-risk inbound travel. Minimisation of local cases without restrictions. Living with COVID-19.