Vaccines have prevented hundreds of elderly Australians from dying of Covid this year from outbreaks across the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
Only six of the more than 2,500 cases recorded in the Sydney outbreak are in retirement homes, all but one have been fully vaccinated and none are seriously ill.
A total of 13 people have died in the outbreak, 182 of them in hospital – including 22 on ventilators and 32 others in the ICU.
During the pandemic, about 2,060 elderly people have been infected with the virus so far and 685 have died in Australia.
About this time last year, 15,304 Victorians were infected in the state’s deadly second wave, including 547 in retirement homes, 73 of whom died.
Vaccines have prevented hundreds of elderly Australians from potentially dying from Covid in outbreaks across the country this year
Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) said vaccines reduce infections and save lives
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the fact that the numbers are not higher is proof that vaccines reduce infections and save lives.
“It significantly reduces, but doesn’t prevent, your chances of getting or transmitting the disease,” he said.
“Overwhelmingly, it reduces the number of cases and it is absolutely clear that it offers tremendous protection for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.”
But more lives could have been saved in the 2021 outbreaks, and possibly in future ones, before the year is out, if the vaccine rollout hadn’t been so slow.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted on Thursday that he had not ordered enough vaccines last year when they were distributed internationally – endangering the lives of Australians.
The rollout has been hampered by delivery delays and changing health advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine after cases of an extremely rare blood clotting disorder were linked to the British-made injection.
Pictured: People line up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at the NSW Vaccination Center in Sydney Olympic Park on July 29
The Delta variant affected employees in seven aged care facilities in NSW, but the outbreak spread to only six residents of SummitCare in Baulkham Hills (pictured)
Australia responded by restricting its use to people over 50 and then over 60s and recommending everyone to use it.
Mixed messages and fear of the one-in-2.5 million fatalities forced the government to frantically order more Pfizer shots with a huge delay.
In July 2020, the US ordered 200 million doses of Pfizer, the UK 90 million and Canada 20 million.
But Australia didn’t order one until November, when it asked for just 10 million doses of the highly effective jab.
In April, the government increased the order to 20 million and doubled it to 40 million in June – but critics say this amount should have been ordered much earlier.
When asked if the government had closed a deal soon enough, Morrison told Sunrise host Natalie Barr: “We went from 10 million to 20 million to 40 million… now it’s about getting the job done.
“Very late,” she said before admitting Mr Morrison, “No country gets everything right and the vaccination program is reaching the points we need now.”
Residents await their vaccination at a newly opened Covid-19 vaccination center in suburban Sydney
Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been shown to reduce the chance of hospitalization by about 90 percent, but the chance of becoming seriously ill decreases by about 70 percent even after one dose.
The Delta variant affected employees at seven aged care facilities in NSW, but the outbreak spread to only six residents of SummitCare in Baulkham Hills.
Eighty-two percent of residents of 2,566 aged care facilities are now fully vaccinated.
Another 86.4 percent have received at least one dose.
196,982 shots were given in Australia on Tuesday – the largest number since the rollout began.