My adjournment is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is that the minister outline to me how the government intends to further encourage community members who are still reluctant to receive a third and even a fourth COVID-19 vaccination to get that extra protection. Today’s figures from the Victorian chief health officer show we had almost 12 000 new cases reported with 16 deaths of Victorians in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
There are almost 70 000 active cases currently in the state. There are 545 cases in our hospitals, more than the number of public hospital beds at some of our largest hospitals. There have been 3268 lives lost, with by far the majority in the last five months. While we are almost at 70 per cent triple vaccination rates across the state, I nevertheless am concerned that it seems to be taking a long time to reach that 95 per cent rate for third doses. I am concerned the community is not receiving a strong health message to help them understand that two doses is not providing sufficient immunity against the current strain of COVID.
In the Shepparton local government area we are at almost 69 per cent of third doses, but in the latest release of vaccination figures for our First Nations people we are seeing a lower rate of almost 55 per cent with more than two doses. There are many vulnerable groups in our community, and of course regional areas are known to have an ageing population. There are those with disabilities who are also vulnerable. I am worried for our First Nations people, who have less vaccination coverage than others, and also that there is a general lack of awareness in our community regarding that need for a third dose. I believe more needs to be done to promote the public health benefits of vaccination on an ongoing basis and that the continuing rate of infection, serious illness and death is because of a lack of awareness across the community. The pressures on our hospital system are enormous, and the health system is in crisis. The virus is rampant in our community, and it is causing these impacts. We see whole school levels at some of our major schools being sent home, because there are not enough teachers to look after them.
We must protect the vulnerable and cannot maintain the position that this pandemic should be treated as if it is over. Steps still need to be taken to inform the public broadly. It is time the Victorian chief health officer steps up to the camera once more to advise Victorians of the current health risks, including long COVID, of the importance of having those third and fourth vaccinations and about access to antiviral medications.