Tempting though it might be for the federal government to indulge in yet another quiet orgy of self-congratulation for finally getting vaccinations back on track, the race to immunise the nation is far from won.
While Australia is now ahead of the US in terms of first doses administered, and is catching up to New Zealand, the UK, China and Denmark on that benchmark, opening up when just 80 per cent of the population is double jabbed is fraught with danger.
Denmark, the first nation in Europe to completely open up when 73 per cent of its population was double-vaxxed, has had to reintroduce some restrictions.
There are two reasons all Australia needs to follow the ACT's lead in aiming for a vaccination rate well in excess of 90 per cent.
The first is that a high national vaccine number still includes significant pockets of under-vaccination. Communities of concern include Indigenous communities and areas with a high proportion of migrants and refugees.
The second is the much greater virulence of the Delta strain compared to the original coronavirus that struck in 2020.
Techniques that worked in 2020 have not had the same effect this time around. New case numbers continue to set daily records in Victoria. The ACT, despite excellent community compliance, has not been able to flatten the curve. NSW, the only state that has managed to reduce numbers with Delta, has taken more than four months - and a massive vaccination push - to get there and has much work still to do.
With even New Zealand, which has only had 4382 cases and 27 deaths since the pandemic began, moving away from an elimination strategy, it is unfortunately obvious living with the virus in the community is the only realistic long-term solution.
As NSW learnt the hard way in June, with Delta it only takes one case undetected in the population for a few days to start an almost unstoppable juggernaut of exponential infection growth.
Premiers who believe they can keep their borders closed until the rest of the country is virus free are deluding themselves and misleading their citizens. The recent COVID-19 leakages into Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are proof they are playing with fire so long as their vaccination rates lag behind the rest of the nation.
Not even the strictest border controls can keep the Delta strain out forever. Rather than focusing on locking out the rest of the nation jurisdictions such as Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory need to put more effort into getting as many people vaccinated in as short a time as possible.
Vaccination is the only route out of lockdown and the emphasis should be placed on minimising hospitalisations (and ultimately deaths) rather than focusing on overall case numbers.
This is achievable because all three of the vaccines are very effective in stopping serious illness. And, better still, Australians will hopefully soon have access to Molnupiravir, an oral anti-viral drug which reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by 50 per cent.
Given the effectiveness of lockdowns deteriorates over time as fatigue sets in and non-compliance - such as occurred in Victoria on the AFL Grand Final weekend - grows, every government must pull out all the stops to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
Why isn't the federal government, which has finally delivered on the long promised flood of vaccines, stepping up its almost invisible vaccination advertising campaign and offering incentives for that last 10 to 15 per cent of holdouts to get the jab?
There is no time to waste.
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