Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Slow uptake of COVID-19 vaccines by teens could see Queensland struggling to hit 80 percent vaccination rate by Dec. 17, a leading infection control specialist has warned.

Professor Marylouise McLaws, a member of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 advisory committee, has also called on Queensland to consider introducing rapid antigen testing at the border to reduce the risk of infected travelers entering the state after the opening date.

Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday unveiled a roadmap to open the state to the rest of Australia, including COVID-19 hotspots in New South Wales and Victoria.

Queensland is the first state without an active outbreak to set some fixed goals and timelines to allow the virus to enter society.

The state border opening is scheduled for Dec. 17, when 80 percent of Queensland’s population is expected to be double-vaccinated.

On that date, fully vaccinated interstate visitors who have registered a negative COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours would be allowed to enter without having to be quarantined, Ms. Palaszczuk said.

The 80 percent vaccination prediction for Dec. 17 has been questioned by Professor McLaws, who said it would depend on Queensland rapidly raising vaccination rates in the 12 to 39 age group.

Professor McLaws said Queensland still had a long way to go for the age group where only 36 per cent were fully vaccinated and only 19 per cent had received their first dose.

“This means that not enough people had time or access to the vaccine in the younger group because they are the group if there is a circulating virus, [that] will acquire it and spread it, because in Victoria and in New South Wales, those under 40 represent around 68 per cent of all case loads, and that’s huge, ” she said.

“So you really need to focus on that group.”

Professor McLaws said that Queensland “just” might be able to reach the vaccination target with the age group of 12 to 39 years, especially if the time between the first and second dose was only three weeks.

She called on Queensland to introduce rapid antigen testing at the border to ensure that those who were double-vaccinated did not enter the state with the virus.

“People who are vaccinated have a small risk, and normally it would not be a problem if your vaccination rates were also high, but they are not quite high enough to block any possible leak to society,” Professor McLaws said.

When she announced the roadmap for opening the borders, Ms Palaszczuk marked a major push to vaccinate teenagers, with the Queensland government looking at how to get vaccination into schools.

Health director Jeannette Young also issued a call to younger people to be vaccinated, warning that the virus “would find people not vaccinated”.

Other changes to the border rules will happen when Queensland reaches 70 per cent fully vaccinated, which was expected to take place on 19 November.

On that date, interstate visitors would only be allowed to enter Queensland by plane if they had been fully vaccinated and had tested negative for the past 72 hours and had to complete a 14-day home quarantine.

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