HIGH vaccination rates will be the best prevention for Ballarat-style snap lockdowns, the state's chief health officer says, and regional Victorians looked like reaching this goal first.
Professor Brett Sutton on Friday said Victorian health authorities had growing confidence small numbers of emerging cases could be managed in local government areas without blanket lockdowns.
Despite coming out of lockdown on Thursday, health leaders continue to be concerned about the COVID-19 threat to Ballarat with one new active case on Friday, likely to have been infectious in the community, and ongoing, unexplained viral fragments in wastewater.
This comes ahead of an injection of the new Moderna vaccinations across the region, starting next week.
Every day that passes, with more and more regional Victorians getting vaccinated, is a greater defence against the need for a lockdown.Professor Brett Sutton, Victorian chief health officer
"I think every day that passes, with more and more regional Victorians getting vaccinated, is a greater defence against the need for a lockdown," Professor Sutton said.
"There will be LGAs that get to that high vaccination coverage, where if one or two cases occur, we will have greater and greater confidence they can be managed through the contact tracing process because they do have very high vaccination coverage.
"Those individuals might have four or five contacts in their household, they might have gone to exposure sites, but the great majority of people who have been close contacts will be vaccinated and have that protection.
"We'll be more confident that a few cases in regional areas won't require a lockdown."
UFS chief executive officer Lynne McLennan said Ballarat was seemingly reaching a point where the vaccine roll-out was increasingly targeting the vaccine-hesitant.
Ms McLennan said ease of access was important and this would be helped with Moderna adding to AstraZeneca jabs in community pharmacies. Moderna, the same type of vaccine as Pfizer, is only available to under-60s.
For the unvaccinated over-60s who are 'waiting for Pfizer', I have a message: You're not waiting for Pfizer, you're waiting for an intensive care bed. That's the reality.Lynne McLennan, UFS chief executive officer
"For the unvaccinated over-60s who are 'waiting for Pfizer', I have a message: You're not waiting for Pfizer, you're waiting for an intensive care bed. That's the reality," Ms McLennan said.
Ms McLennan said Delta infections were not going away anytime soon and future infection and death would predominantly be in the unvaccinated.
She said while there were vaccine supply issues, AstraZeneca was still plentiful because it was being manufactured in Australia.
"To keep our community really safe, we need to aim for as high a vaccination as is possible, bearing in mind that there is no vaccine currently approved for under-12s and there is also a very small number of people who medically are unable to be vaccinated," Ms McLennan said "Opening up vaccinations in pharmacies is a game-changer for improving access to vaccines.
"Our experience at UFS pharmacies so far suggests that people who may have been putting off getting vaccinated, whether due to hesitancy or lassitude, have been coming into their local UFS pharmacy and getting the jab.
"The opportunity to speak with their local pharmacist about the benefit of the vaccine has been an important factor. For those who don't wish to make appointments online or via phone, they can make their appointment in person on their next visit."
IN OTHER NEWS
The state government confirmed on Friday 300,000 Moderna doses were on their way to Victoria and would predominantly start to roll out in Melbourne suburbs with high infections.
Limited supplies are expected in Ballarat next week, including some UFS pharmacies. While bookings are open at UFS, other community pharmacies expecting Moderna remain waiting for the vaccine to arrive first.
The latest federal health data showed more than half Ballarat residents aged 15-plus are fully vaccinated and almost 77 per cent had received at least one dose.
State-run hubs in the Grampians region have delivered more than 20,000 jabs in the past three weeks, a figure health leaders estimate is matched by the region's primary care providers.
There are 20 active COVID cases in the City of Ballarat and all are being monitored via Ballarat Health Services' at-home care program.
Grampians Public Health Unit medical director Rosemary Aldrich said Friday's new COVID case explained some, but not all, of this week's unexpected COVID detections in Ballarat wastewater.
There were new detections reported on Friday morning not linked to known COVID cases from areas connecting to the Ballarat South treatment plant.
Associate Professor Aldrich said getting for the slightest symptoms were vital to help contain the virus in Ballarat.
"COVID can be very mild. It is possible that you could have had COVID without realising," Associate Professor Aldrich said. "If you have had symptoms recently but think your symptoms are gone now please still get tested to make sure it was not COVID. Please do not delay - COVID might be mild in you but could have a severe impact on someone close to you."
WASTEWATER DETECTION CONCERNS
Anyone living in these areas is urged to be particularly vigilant about getting a COVID test for even the slightest symptoms.
New detections in the northern part of the Ballarat South Treatment Plant catchment covering: Redan, Ballarat Central, Buninyong, Mt Helen, Mt Clear, Canadian, Golden Point, Ballarat East, Warrenheip, Brown Hill, Black Hill, Ballarat North, Invermay Park, Lake Wendouree and Wendouree.
Repeat detections in locations identified for the first time only in the past few days across both the Ballarat North Treatment Plant and Ballarat South Treatment Plant catchments: Lake Gardens, Alfredton, Delacombe, Ascot, Bald Hills, Ballarat North, Blowhard, Cabbage Tree, Cardigan, Creswick, Invermay, Invermay Park, Learmonth, Miners Rest, Mitchell Park, Mount Rowan, Sulky, Wendouree and Windermere.
On-going detections (having occurred regularly for the past fortnight or so): Alfredton, Bakery Hill, Ballarat Central, Ballarat East, Ballarat North, Black Hill, Bonshaw, Brown Hill, Buninyong, Canadian, Cardigan, Delacombe, Eureka, Golden Point, Invermay Park, Lake Gardens, Lake Wendouree, Lucas, Mount Clear, Mount Helen, Mount Pleasant, Nerrina, Newington, Redan, Sebastopol, Smythes Creek, Soldiers Hill, Warrenheip and Wendouree.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.