Melburnians breathe a sigh of relief – except for our health workers

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The 70 percent rate Victoria is expected to reach on Wednesday equates to about 56 percent of the general population. The 80 percent rate that we aim to achieve in early November represents only two-thirds of the entire population. Both rates are well below those required to slow the spread of the virus.

Hence the sigh of stressed health workers who know that the virus will spread among the unvaccinated – children, those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons or because of poor logistics of the deployment which prevented the First Nations Australians and people with disabilities getting vaccinated. , and those who refuse to be vaccinated.

Nurse Michelle Spence is one of the healthcare professionals who described the challenges of treating patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Health workers have been on high alert for more than 18 months, with only a brief respite between waves of COVID cases. They see even more pressure coming, as the burden of responding to the pandemic shifts from the entire population through blockages, to the health system and its staff.

Ninety percent of people hospitalized today with COVID are unvaccinated, even though the unvaccinated now only make up a quarter of the population. Almost everyone with COVID in an intensive care unit bed (96%) is not vaccinated.

Living with COVID means a change in the metric to watch. Even fully vaccinated people can become infected – although this is less likely – but the main difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated is their risk of hospitalization and death. For people who are fully vaccinated, the risk of hospitalization and death is usually very low. This is what the vaccine is designed to achieve, and it is very effective at doing it.

As the proportion of the population vaccinated increases, the measure to watch becomes hospitalizations and deaths, rather than the number of new cases. The government should begin to focus on reporting hospitalizations and deaths, as the number of cases becomes less significant as the number of vaccinated increases.

As the proportion of the population vaccinated increases, the measure to watch becomes hospitalizations and deaths, rather than the number of new cases.

As the proportion of the population vaccinated increases, the measure to watch becomes hospitalizations and deaths, rather than the number of new cases.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Every death is a tragedy and a life cut short. The government cannot view these deaths as collateral damage and must always protect us all from infection.

The Victorian healthcare system was stretched before COVID, and it is more likely to be overwhelmed now. It will remain under intense pressure until vaccination rates are much higher than they are now, and we have been working on the current wave of infections among the unvaccinated.

With the easing of the lockdown, we will enjoy increased social contact. But with the increase in social contact, there will be an increased spread of COVID and increased pressure on the healthcare system. The government hopes that the huge increase in vaccinations seen in recent weeks will continue and that the increase in vaccinations will exceed the increased spread of the virus.

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The changes announced by the Prime Minister this week are welcome. But they come with a risk.

Melburnians should always be careful, we should always wear masks and those who are not vaccinated – who are most at risk – should be even more careful and, if they can, get vaccinated.

Stephen Duckett, director of the Health and Elderly Care program at the Grattan Institute, is doubly vaccinated and has excessively long hair.


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