In Australia, which initially kept its death toll low with repeated lockdowns, the move to double-digit daily deaths was swift. Murray said coronavirus deaths now hit more than 1,200 each month.
“But he just disappeared from the headlines. It’s about someone’s mother, grandmother and relatives, so of course it’s very distressing for the individual and their family,” Murray said.
“That’s the price of our openness, of community members not being careful enough to try to prevent transmission, or not getting vaccinated, or not getting their third or fourth dose, which, in my opinion, increases everyone’s risk.”
The most likely risk factor for death from COVID-19 is old age. In the elderly, the most severe symptoms of an Omicron infection are often not respiratory, but rather affect physical and cognitive function, causing delirium, for example, resulting in general decline. Older people are also more likely to have comorbidities.
Their immune system’s ability to fully respond to vaccination is also diminished, so a winter booster was prioritized, Murray said.
“The hardest question really remains are they dying with or of COVID?” Murray said. “It’s an older group, which is fragile, and so it doesn’t take much to make their heart failure or dementia worse when they get sick with coronavirus.”
Despite the high number of deaths among older Australians, uptake of fourth booster shots in elderly care remains slow. Only about 65% of eligible residents have received their fourth dose of the vaccine.
“The Victorian data reflects what we’ve been saying all along about the importance of boosters,” said infectious disease expert Professor Paul Griffin, who has been the principal investigator of seven COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
“We are entering another wave of COVID-19 where we are really concerned about the impact on hospitals and intensive care. The best thing we can do is get our third or fourth dose, but that seems like a message that people aren’t very receptive to right now.
Almost 90% of Victorians over the age of 65 have received a third dose of the vaccine, while 46% have received their fourth winter dose.
Austin Hospital Melbourne’s director of intensive care, Stephen Warrillow, said their intensive care ward, once packed with people seriously ill with the coronavirus, was now treating just one or two COVID patients a day.
Last week there were 23 Victorians with coronavirus in intensive care. Of the Victorians who died in hospital with or because of COVID-19 between January and June 28, 296 were unvaccinated and 21 had only received a single dose.
The disparity between daily deaths and intensive care admissions is mainly due to the high number of deaths in care for the elderly, after the removal of the strict restrictions of locking.
Aged and Community Care Providers Association acting chief executive Paul Sadler said the recall program is underway and working well overall.
“Many nursing homes are working with local GPs and pharmacies to arrange continued access to reminders for residents who choose to be vaccinated,” he said.
However, he added that it was vital that the federal government urgently address shortages of elder care staff, in order to avoid staff shortages and disruptions during COVID or flu outbreaks.
Due to high rates of community transmission, Warrillow said he is now seeing more immunocompromised people infected with the virus being admitted to intensive care in Austin, such as organ donor recipients. These patients were becoming seriously ill with the virus, despite all precautions taken, including being up to date with their fourth and fifth booster shots.
“I’ve certainly personally treated a number of patients recently who lead healthy, full lives, and that’s their organ transplant success, but they’ve been terribly unlucky due to their immunosuppression,” a- he declared.
“This is a reminder to the community to get vaccinated and to remember all the health advice we’ve learned. It’s not just you you’re protecting, but you’re also paying attention to the people who deserve our protection. .
Less than 20% of coronavirus deaths have been reported among Victorians aged 70-79. This fell further for people in their 60s, who accounted for around 6% of total reported deaths through the end of June, while those in their 50s accounted for 3.3% of deaths.
There have been 15 coronavirus-related deaths among Victorians in their 50s who died up to June 28, while 12 were in their 40s and fewer than 10 people were in their 20s.
Marion Kainer, head of infectious diseases at Western Health Melbourne, said deaths in younger, otherwise healthy people who were vaccinated remained exceptionally rare.
Often a death has occurred in a younger, vaccinated person because they were immunocompromised in some way, such as someone undergoing cancer treatment.
“It’s a numbers game. If you have a lot of disease and a lot of people are infected, then in rare cases you’re going to see these bad outcomes,” she said.
Australia’s death toll is a fraction of what has been recorded in similar countries around the world – in the UK 10,000 had died of the virus in April 2020, and the same figure was recorded in two months this year.
Professor Nigel McMillan, director of the infectious diseases and immunology program at Griffith University, said COVID is on track to become the second leading cause of death in Australia in 2022, behind coronary heart disease.
“The current 50 deaths a day is barely noted and yet it’s more than double the daily traffic toll,” McMillan said.
“We need our public health officials to rethink the approach to this disease. We need Omicron-specific vaccines, wider use of antivirals, and we need to wear our masks a lot more.
A Victorian health spokeswoman said staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including the third and fourth doses, significantly reduced the chances of going to hospital or dying from COVID-19.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the families and friends who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 during the pandemic,” she said.
“We now know that for eligible people, a fourth dose significantly reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19, compared to three doses.”
She urged Victorians to wear face coverings indoors or when unable to physically distance, to stay home if unwell and to continue to get tested when they have symptoms.
Up to June 28 this year, 14,537 people needed treatment in Victorian hospitals for illness related to COVID-19 during the reporting period. This represents only 0.76% of the more than 1.9 million cases diagnosed this year. Of the cases admitted to hospital, 5% were later admitted to intensive care.
With Mary Ward
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