Up to 10,000 Victorians have cancelled vaccine appointments or simply not bothered to show up in recent days, a concerned Premier Daniel Andrews has revealed.
He said the number of no-shows and cancellations had doubled since Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement last week that Pfizer vaccines would be opened up to all Australians aged from 16-39 from August 30.
Victoria’s local virus cases spiked to 71 on Monday, with just 16 of those in isolation while infectious. Concerningly, the number of mystery cases is also surging – up another 22 on Monday.
Victoria has launched a campaign for one million vaccinations by September 19, although Mr Andrews said supply remained an issue. He urged people to keep their appointments.
“Getting vaccinated today is better than joining the queue in a fortnight. Particularly if you are in that queue with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of others,” he said.
“This is moving pretty fast. This is not a criticism but just to show you that the total pool is getting bigger.”
Part of the concern for younger Australians is the shorter gap between Pfizer shots. First and second doses are recommended three-six weeks apart, compared to eight-12 weeks for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
That means getting fully vaccinated is potentially quicker with Pfizer – as long as the shots are available.
Mr Andrews said one shot of a vaccine that was already available was better than waiting potentially weeks for even a single dose.
“Every jab we get done today and this week is far preferable than appointments we make for next week or the week after. It is one of those dynamic things and it is a race to 80 per cent [vaccinated], so we have to get there,” he said.
COVID vaccines have hit record levels in Victoria, with nearly 186,000 shots administered in state-run clinics last week. There are more than 50,000 appointments for Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses available in the coming week – including at Melbourne hubs and regional clinics.
“Each and every one of those visits, each and every one of those appointments, takes us a step closer in that race to 70 per cent and then 80 per cent of our community having been vaccinated,” Mr Andrews said.
“That means that we don’t have to be locked down, certainly not statewide, we don’t have to have many of the rules that are essential, and our only option at this time.
“Those vaccination numbers give us many other options, and they’re all much better than the very limited set of options that every state and the national government have reluctantly – and with a heavy heart – had to sign up to.”
Mr Andrews also urged Victorians to get tested earlier, revealing some cases reported on Monday had “taken a few extra days” to get tested.
“This thing moves so fast that even a few extra days almost guarantees that you will give it to multiple other people – your family, the people you love the most – and you don’t want that,” he said.
Victoria’s update came as NSW revealed its astonishing vaccination pace as it charges towards a target of six million shots by the end of August. It hit 5.9 vaccines on Sunday, and is expect to announce it has hit its target on Tuesday – a week ahead of schedule.
There were 818 new local COVID infections in NSW on Monday. A further three deaths took the toll from the current outbreak to 74.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged NSW residents to focus on the rising vaccination rate.
“We want to see [the case numbers] go down, no doubt about that, and we’re working so hard to make that possible, but the number we need to focus on is the vaccination rate,” she said.
“When we reach 70 per cent double dose, we will be able to live more freely. When we get to 80 per cent double dose, essentially, we would have normalised the way we treat COVID.”
She said NSW was on course to hit the crucial 70 per cent threshold outlined in Doherty Institute modelling by the end of October – but could get there sooner.
Ms Berejiklian repeated that Australians would have to learn to “live with COVID” as governments could not “keep Delta out forever”.
She has promised an update by the end of the week on a return to school for NSW children and to outline the added freedoms for fully vaccinated residents in September and October.