The Australian state of Victoria must fully immunize at least 90% of its population if it is to avoid re-entering containment, researchers at the University of Melbourne said on Tuesday.
As part of the government’s national roadmap, the country will reopen once 80% of its population over 16 is fully immunized. Victoria state’s roadmap, released on Sunday, differs slightly, calling for 80% of people aged 12 and older to be vaccinated.
Australia’s vaccination rate lags behind other developed countries, with just 38% of the population fully vaccinated, according to the Financial Times tracker.
Researchers in Melbourne, however, modeled 432 scenarios using different combinations of vaccine coverage, travel restrictions, social distancing restrictions and breeding numbers for the virus.
In the “default strategy,” where the state unlocks once 80% of its population aged 18 and over is fully immunized, it would have to resume lockdown for 39% of the following year to maintain annual deaths of Covid at a “moderate level,” they concluded.
A second “improved strategy” of vaccinating 80% of residents aged five and over would reduce deaths but still see the state spend 19% of the year in lockdown.
A final “innovative strategy” reduces the time spent in confinement to zero, but would require immunization coverage of 90% of adults and children. It would also build on future innovations such as better ventilation in interior spaces and more efficient tracking and tracing applications.
Much of Victoria, including the state capital, Melbourne, is under lockdown, as are parts of New South Wales. Australia has proposed moving from a Covid elimination strategy to learning to ‘live with the virus’ once higher vaccination rates are achieved. State governments, however, disagree on the level of immunization coverage to be achieved and the restrictions to be maintained over the long term.