The COVID-19 death of a Sydney man in his 20s has prompted authorities to renew appeals to young people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
But, despite the growing emergency in NSW – with authorities conceding about two-thirds of the state’s local virus cases are in people under 40 – Pfizer shots for younger Australians will not be brought forward.
The federal government’s COVID taskforce head, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, confirmed on Wednesday that Pfizer vaccines wouldn’t be available for people in their 30s until at least the end of August or earlier September.
Younger Australians can expect to wait even longer, with General Frewen saying only that the government was considering a “school-based vaccination program at some stage this year”.
His confirmation came after the sudden death of a man, widely named across the media as 27-year-old forklift driver Aude Alaskar, in his south-west Sydney home on Tuesday.
He collapsed in the Liverpool unit he shared with his wife and was unable to be revived by paramedics.
Mr Alaskar had reportedly been married just a few months. He was otherwise fit and healthy, and had no underlying health conditions.
“He was a soccer player, he was a very fit guy. He used to always do sports. He never smoked, doesn’t drink,” his cousin Bash Mnati told the ABC.
“He was so nice, he was so good, he never had any trouble with anyone.
“He just got married about three months ago and his wedding party was in two months’ time.”
Mr Alaskar’s wife, who works in aged care, has since been transferred to hospital with the virus.
His death comes a year after that of a Victorian man in his 20s who was reported to be Australia’s youngest COVID-19 fatality.
It was confirmed on Tuesday along with another NSW fatality, an unvaccinated woman in her 80s. They take the death toll from the current NSW outbreak to 17.
NSW also reported another 233 local virus infections on Wednesday. There have been 4063 local cases since its Delta outbreak began.
Many of the recent cases are in younger people – and many of the 286 virus patients in NSW hospitals are young, including some in their 20s and 30s.
There are further troubling signs in Sydney, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying on Wednesday she was concerned the outbreak had not yet reached its peak.
She said Mr Alaskar’s death “demonstrates again how this disease is lethal, how it affects people of all ages”.
On Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said she wanted half of NSW’s adult population – about six million people – to have had at least one shot of a COVID vaccine by the end of August.
She flagged some lockdown restrictions in greater Sydney and its surrounds might be wound back if that target was hit.
“By the end of August, I’d like to see NSW record six million jabs … that gives us additional options as to what life looks like on August 29,” Ms Berejiklian said.
But on Wednesday, the federal government’s COVID taskforce head, Lieutenant-General John Frewen said demand for vaccines was still outstripping supplies nationwide.
With more than 218,000 doses administered across Australia on Tuesday, the combined national total since the program began is 12.8 million doses. General Frewen said 80 per cent of over 70s had had first doses and 20 per cent of eligible Australians were fully vaccinated.
While there are still shortages of Pfizer, AstraZeneca was “available now to people and informed consent over the age of 18”, General Frewen said.
“I’d encourage every Australian to make an informed choice now about whether they want to get vaccinated with what’s available right now or whether they wish to wait,” he said.
“We are constantly working with the drug companies and looking for opportunities to bring forward additional mRNA vaccines and as soon as we get those, we will make decisions to open up as quickly as we can.”
But NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Wednesday the tragedy of the young man’s death in Sydney should prompt people 18 and over to consult their GP or pharmacist about having the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Go and get it,” he said.
“Sadly we just heard one young person, in his 20s, has passed away which I think emphasises what we have been saying now for quite some time about two-thirds of all of our cases are currently under 40 years.
“It’s a very serious issue.”
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said Mr Alaskar had reached day 13 of his isolation period at his home after testing positive to the virus.
“He was being checked daily, and he did complain of feeling a little fatigued, but the deterioration happened suddenly,” she said.
“With COVID you can get sudden deaths,” she said.
In July, a woman in her 50s also died at her western Sydney home where she was isolating after contracting the virus.
She was the mother of two Sydney removalists who allegedly continued driving to central west NSW after being notified they had tested positive.