ACT leads national race to vaccinate against COVID-19 as it sets aims higher

Ash Snare, 26, receives his first dose of AstraZeneca from pharmacist Max Cornwell Laidlaw at Priceline Woden on Tuesday. Picture: Karleen Minney
Ash Snare, 26, receives his first dose of AstraZeneca from pharmacist Max Cornwell Laidlaw at Priceline Woden on Tuesday. Picture: Karleen Minney

The ACT has jumped ahead in the race to vaccinate the nation, taking the lead for the first time on the same day the capital recorded a record number of COVID-19 cases.

Canberra inched ahead of Tasmania in having the highest proportion of fully inoculated residents, with 37.57 per cent of the over-16 population receiving two doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has asked the federal government to deliver more Pfizer doses to the capital to speed up the rollout after inviting the next age cohort to register for their jab.

But he urged people to get vaccinated immediately, rather than waiting, after the ACT reported 30 cases on Tuesday, the highest daily figure in the territory since the pandemic began.

There are 167 active cases linked to the current outbreak and an unvaccinated woman in her 40s is in intensive care. Three other positive cases are in hospital.

Mr Barr wants the ACT to beat the vaccination targets set out in the national cabinet plan, but Pfizer appointments are booked out until mid-October.

"The more Canberrans who are vaccinated, the better protected our community will be from the virus and from the decisions of other governments that are beyond the control of the ACT government," Mr Barr said.

The Chief Minister said the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets in the national plan were important milestones, where states and territories could take gentle steps towards easing restrictions.

"They are not the endgame, though, for vaccination. So the ACT will be striving for much more than 80 per cent. And we will be including, in our goals, all those currently eligible for vaccination," he said.

Mr Barr again stressed the vaccination rate among Canberrans aged 12 and up would be considered when decisions were taken to ease or tighten future public health restrictions.

"They will figure in our decision making, in our vaccination goals and our desire to protect this community," he said.

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Nationally, 53.56 of Australians aged over 16 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while just 30.88 per cent of Australians have received both jabs.

Mr Barr said he had stressed to the federal government that a little extra vaccine supply for the ACT would go a long way in the small jurisdiction.

"The Commonwealth have been able to help at a very small level," he said.

Mr Barr made his strongest encouragement to date for Canberrans aged over 18 to take up the opportunity to receive an AstraZeneca shot, in consultation with a health professional.

While registrations have opened for 16- to 29-year-olds for Pfizer vaccinations, appointments will not become available until October.

Mr Barr said the AstraZeneca vaccine was available now through general practice clinics and pharmacists.

"It is seriously worth considering, following a conversation with your trusted health professional, getting the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as possible," he said.

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Pharmacy student Ash Snare, 26, took up that opportunity on Tuesday, saying

"I've been thinking about getting it for a while, weighing up the pros and cons. I just thought today was the day to try and stay safe, I guess," he said.

Mr Snare, who works in a chemist, said more people had come in to have the jab since the start of Canberra's lockdown.

"Today we had 30 new cases. If you have the vaccine you're much less likely to get sick, so that's probably the main reason," he said.

"A lot of people didn't really know you could just walk in and have the option for a vaccine, so I guess it's hopefully about explaining to them the pros and cons, the risks versus benefits. I'd say the benefit highly outweighs the risk at this point."

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This story ACT leads national race to vaccinate as it sets aims higher first appeared on The Canberra Times.