Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

April 12. This is the last time a person died in Queensland of COVID-19.

The 80-year-old man had returned from the Philippines with the virus, was diagnosed in hotel quarantine and died at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital.

You need another year left for the sixth death in Queensland — an 83-year-old cruise passenger.

Queenslanders are not used to seeing people succumb to COVID-19. But if the experts are right, that is changing fast.

When the state government opens the border on December 17, regardless of whether the double-dose vaccination rate for the eligible population (persons aged 16 and over) hits 80 percent, the latest model from QIMR Berghofer predicts that we will see about 200 deaths within the first 90 days .

From one death per year, we will begin to see more than one per day — and that is before a peak expected in mid-2022.

Now the government is in a race against time to try to ensure Queensland gets as close to the 80 per cent milestone as possible. Did people hear Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement that vaccination would soon allow them to roll across the border and return without quarantine?

Did they instead hear the Prime Minister say she would reopen regardless of their individual vaccination status?

Whatever the reason, the announcement so far has not increased the vaccination rate.

Let’s go to the statistics. The Prime Minister unveiled his roadmap last Monday morning. On that day, according to federal government data, 42,936 doses were administered in Queensland, followed by 46,024 on Tuesday, 51,550 on Wednesday, and about 50,369 on Thursday – a total of 190,879.

Across the same four days in the previous week, 201,954 doses were delivered. The week before that (October 4-7) it was 184,485, while the week before that (September 27-30) it was 205,134.

Mrs Palaszczuk must see the same worrying trend, which explains why she sent her ministers across the state as part of a “blitz” to encourage more people to be vaccinated.

But since when have Queenslanders been very aware of what politicians are telling them to do?

An ICU healthcare professional in a mask and gown at a hospital COVID ward
As the number of deaths increases, the demand for ICU hospital beds is also expected to increase.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

Much has been made of the lack of an advertising campaign around vaccinations, with many pointing the finger at Canberra. It seems we are only too happy to bring celebrities to tourism ads, but what about the life and death scenario some people now potentially face, especially the older and more vulnerable members of our society?

The latest data (from 17 October) shows that 79.1 per cent of the eligible population in the Brisbane City Council area has had a dose and 64 per cent are fully vaccinated. But as health chief Jeannette Young has pointed out, while the southeast corner has reasonable percentages, there are still 675,000 people in that region unvaccinated.

The premier’s comment on Wednesday that she “can not look after you if you do not jump on the lifeboat” means that this is up to each and every one of us. But that is not to say that the state has no role here.

Look at the areas where vaccine uptake is lowest-regional Queensland.

Double doses are severely low in the council areas of Isaac (29 percent) and the Central Highlands (39.9 percent). And the indigenous communities of Cherbourg (24.9 percent) and Yarrabah (22.7 percent) have the lowest vaccination rates recorded in the country. Cherbourg is not expected to hit the 80 percent double dose until June 2022.

Although you can get a Pfizer shot daily at the Brisbane Convention Center between 7:30 and 18:30, many clinics in the regions open around 9:00, close between 14:00 and 16:30, and are not open on weekends.

In addition, you are advised to arrive one hour before closing time. This is a resource problem for Queensland Health. It’s hard to get on the lifeboat when you also have to keep a nine-to-five job down.

Hopefully, today’s “Super Saturday,” in which 119 schools across the state open as pop-up vaccination clinics, will accelerate the rollout.

Then again, it may be the latest infection on the Gold Coast, the first in the community in over fourteen weeks, it’s waking up. Outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria have triggered a rush for vaccination.

But it would be a tragedy if it took the death of another Queenslander to galvanize society into action, because the modeling shows us that there will be plenty of it in the coming months.

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