Mosman, Woollahra fall behind in Sydney’s vaccination race

Despite a decline in recent uptake, it will most likely still be the councils that had the highest numbers of first doses by the end of August that have the highest numbers of fully vaccinated residents by October 11, when the state begins to reopen.

NSW reported 813 new local coronavirus cases from 98,266 tests on Saturday. Federal government data showed 88.1 per cent of those aged 16 and over in NSW had received a first dose and 66.5 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Ten deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Saturday, including a person in their 50s; a man in his 60s from western Sydney who caught COVID-19 at Mount Druitt Hospital; an unvaccinated man in his 60s from inner Sydney, who died at home and tested positive after his death; and a man in his 80s from the Lake Macquarie area, who also died at home while receiving care from the local health district.

Estimates suggest NSW will hit 70 per cent full vaccination of its 16 and over population on Tuesday and 80 per cent about two weeks after that.

Associate Professor Holly Seale, a vaccine communications researcher from the University of NSW, said the swing in vaccine uptake in a number of western Sydney council areas over the past month was due to a “heightened risk perception” as well as significant work by community leaders in tackling misinformation.

“There were deaths in the community and there were also pop-up clinics in face-to-face locations,” she said.

Dr Seale said conversations with local community leaders had suggested that mandatory vaccinations for some occupations – notably health and aged care staff, as well as construction workers in the local government areas of concern – had not been as influential as better communication and access.

Although childhood vaccination rates in Mosman and Woollahra are both below average – the statewide five-year-old rate is 95 per cent but in Mosman it is 91.9 per cent and Woollahra it is 90.3 per cent – Dr Seale said COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and childhood vaccination hesitancy were very different, and it was probably not useful to draw links.

“The people who were going to jump on this have jumped on. Now we’ve got the hard work to support others,” she said.

University of Sydney professor of biostatistics Ian Marschner said that, while the predictions were most likely very accurate, it became more difficult to predict vaccine uptake beyond these figures.

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“Particularly as we approach to 90 per cent, it is going to be difficult, I think, to extrapolate the vaccination rates forward because you start to get into the vaccine hesitant population,” he said.

According to the Melbourne Institute’s vaccine hesitancy tracker, the number of people in NSW opposing being vaccinated against COVID-19 is falling.

On September 23, the latest data release, 7.4 per cent of respondents were not willing to be vaccinated and 6.1 per cent did not know. While the unsure group was roughly the same size as on August 20, the number of people not willing to have a shot dropped from 11.8 per cent.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has expressed optimism the state could reach 92 per cent vaccination.

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