Canberra will be one of the world’s most vaccinated cities, but that’s not enough against Omicron

Canberrans presided over a remarkable performance this year.

Even without children under the age of 12 receiving COVID-19 vaccines, ACT became one of the most inoculated jurisdictions in the world.

Current enrollment rates suggest that around 93 percent of Canberrans of all ages will be vaccinated by February – a level that could see the national capital become the world’s most vaccinated city.

Still, many residents are wary as 2022 approaches, infections rise, and more information about the Omicron variant emerges.

The capital in socio-economic benefit

The ACT was probably always Australia’s most vaccinated state or territory.

There is a very strong link between socio-economic benefit and the extent to which a community will be vaccinated – and highly paid, well-educated Canberra is Australia’s benefit capital.

Nevertheless, while almost all of the Canberrans moved up to get a shot, a small number – at best guest, 1 percent of those eligible – rejected or ignored the opportunity.

Who is Canberra’s 1 percent?

ACT officials release little information on the demographics of COVID-19 vaccinations and infections.

But if the government’s population estimates are accurate, there are about 3,600 Canberrans aged 12 or older who remain unvaccinated.

Another 40,000 children will be eligible in just over a week.

There is enough data to suggest that clusters of people in the Oaks Estate and Symonston (both near the ACT-NSW border) have lower inoculation rates than elsewhere in the metropolitan area – consistent with what is known about socio-economic disadvantage.

More surprisingly, areas in the relatively affluent inner north may also be under-vaccinated – although this in turn presupposes that population estimates are accurate.

Although this group of Canberrans is small in number, their vaccination status remains a crucial challenge to ACT’s public health: 10 out of every 11 people who needed intensive care during the current outbreak were not fully vaccinated.

The protection of the ACT community is rapidly fading

A woman wearing protective gear is standing next to a car
Canberran’s early uptake of vaccines may have made them more vulnerable to the Omicron strain.(AAP: James Gourley)

Omicron poses another threat to the Delta variant of the disease.

It may be milder than previous strains, but it appears to be more resistant to vaccines.

Although there are no authoritative data on the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron, some very limited UK results are available.

If they are extrapolated to the ACT population, we get a measure of how effectively Canberrans is collected against symptomatic disease.

As this chart shows, the fact that so many Canberrans were vaccinated early means that they may now be more vulnerable than Australians who left it late.

That’s why booster doses, which seem to be extremely effective against this new variant, are so crucial.

Until the vaccines improve and we get a better understanding of Omicron, it is likely that the end of this pandemic will remain very distant.

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