Nobody knows what vaccination rate would allow restrictions to ease safely. But rates need to rise substantially.
Epidemiological models suggest that if more than 10% of the country, including children, remain unvaccinated, outbreaks would put terrible pressure on the health system. And some have medical conditions precluding vaccination.
Models can fail on encountering the real world. But Alberta, Canada, shows that full vaccination of 70% of the eligible population is nowhere close to sufficient.
Almost 90% of Alberta’s fourth Covid wave ICU cases have come from the completely unvaccinated 20% of the province. 218 are in ICU with Covid and numbers are rising sharply.
An outbreak of that magnitude here would leave 30 ICU beds, total, for others. Alberta is asking other provinces to share the load; we do not have that luxury.
Like drunk drivers, the unvaccinated do not just put themselves at risk.
Cancer surgeries are cancelled when there is no space for post-operative care.
On Tuesday, doctors warned Alberta’s health system would fall apart in a month absent stronger measures preventing transmission. On Wednesday, the province announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings, with more lenient restrictions for the vaccinated.
Ekos pollster Frank Graves says that Canadian patience with vaccine refusers, who effectively hold the rest of the country to ransom, “is utterly exhausted.”
Vaccines here have been rolling out at pace. But we know much higher rates are still needed. At least some currently hesitant might take up a non-mRNA option, if offered. Every percentage point matters.
In this week’s Initiative podcast, Medicines New Zealand’s Graeme Jarvis explains how effective treatments would also help ease the burden of any larger outbreak, if they were part of the government’s strategy.
At the same time, the Government needs to make it easier for businesses and venues to ensure health and safety for their workers, clients, and the public.
In Australia, vaccination is mandatory for aged-care workers. But The Herald reports Ryman faces procedural hurdles in setting similar requirements in its own care facilities.
Venues abroad have been able to operate more safely, despite Covid, by requiring that attendees provide proof of vaccination. Currently, Level 2 limits indoor spaces to no more than 50 people. As the vaccination rollout progresses, venues requiring vaccination could safely be allowed to operate with more attendees.
High vaccination rates really are necessary – ideally, all of the Team of Five Million, barring those medically precluded from vaccination.