Queensland reaches 80 per cent vaccine rate as borders prepare to reopen

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Queensland has hit 80 per cent fully vaccinated, joining South Australia and Tasmania as one of the first jurisdictions in the world to hit the milestone without an active COVID-19 outbreak.

The state was closing in on its target earlier this week with 79.6 per cent of Queenslanders aged over 16 fully vaccinated and 87.7 per cent having had one dose by Tuesday.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed on Thursday that both Queensland and the Northern Territory reached the 80 per cent milestone on Wednesday.

“Well done to Queensland and the NT! Confirming you’ve officially hit 80% double dose vaccination, the target in our National Plan,” he tweeted on Thursday morning.

“Thank you to everyone who got their jab.

People talk to each other over the barriers at the QLD/NSW border. Credit: JONO SEARLE/AAPIMAGE

“Please get your booster if you’re due and help Australia continue to safely reopen and stay safely open.”

Queensland hit the milestone five days before it reopens its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from domestic virus hotspots who test negative.

But there is concern about jab hesitancy among a significant portion of the state’s younger population under the age of 40.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Wednesday that almost 95 per cent of people over 70 were fully vaccinated, and for the 50-plus age group the figure was almost 90 per cent.

“It really is our 20- to 39-year-olds where we have a larger proportion who are still not vaccinated for one dose,” Ms D’Ath said.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath
Qld has reached 80 pc full vaccination but there’s concern about a lower rate among young people. Credit: AAP

The state hit the target on the same day the government announced the state’s first case of Omicron as well as a case of a completely new lineage of an Omicron-like variant in an overseas traveller in hotel quarantine.

Labs have indicated that when using PCR tests to identify the original Omicron variant, one of three target genes is not detected, the World Health Organisation says.

This is known as S gene dropout which the new sub-lineage does not have, acting chief health officer Peter Aitken said.

“It’s going to lead to improvements in people recognising the potential spread of Omicron in all communities, so that’s a great national contribution,” he said.

Omicron has about 30 different gene changes, while the new sub lineage has about 14.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Credit: JONO SEARLE/AAPIMAGE

“So it’s got enough to be able to classify it as Omicron, but we don’t know enough about it as to what that means as far as … clinical severity (and) vaccine effectiveness,” Dr Aitken said.

“What we do know is that it’s looking like Omicron is more infectious and more transmissible.”

The arrival of the variant was a reminder the pandemic is not over as Queensland prepares to open its borders to interstate hot spots on Monday, Dr Aitken said.

“In many ways the COVID journey has just started,” he said.

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