PEOPLE might look to European beaches packed with summer sunbakers, cafe dining with no masks or big crowds for sporting matches in the United States.
A Ballarat immunologist warns it is a different picture to the summer Victoria and other Australians are preparing to face.
Remember last year's flatten the curve manta for lowering cases to come out of lockdown?
Federation University immunology professor Stuart Berzins said we had to start thinking that way again, holding out a little longer from re-opening, just to allowed enough time for every one who can be vaccinated, to have the chance to be vaccinated.
This would prove the big difference between Australia and major nations in the northern hemisphere - or even what could unfold a little north in New South Wales.
A lot of people are not understanding we're at a point where if we can stretch it out a little longer, there will be a stage when, no doubt, infections will rise a lot but we can make it look a lot more like a bad flu season.Stuart Berzins, Federation University immunologist
"Europe has a vaccination rate that is much higher and of those who are not vaccinated, many are immune because they've had COVID. But the rate of death is 50 times high than Australia," professor Berzins said.
"Things aren't as bad as what they were, but they've been through the worst of it. Providing we can hold on long enough to get our vaccination rate higher, we can avoid what the US and UK [United Kingdom] is going through.
"...A lot of people are not understanding we're at a point where if we can stretch it out a little longer, there will be a stage when, no doubt, infections will rise a lot but we can make it look a lot more like a bad flu season."
Professor Berzins said even a nation like Denmark, while painted as a success story, had death and hospitalisation rates as high or higher than Australia right now.
In speaking to staff across Federation University campuses, Professor Berzins said the nature of the Delta-variant meant we would all inevitably be exposed to COVID-19 so the goal was to minimise its impact on the community.
IN OTHER NEWS
Professor Berzins said vaccination was the way to drive a wedge between infection and high hospitalisation rates and multiple modelling had shown this, even with rising infection spikes.
He said vaccination could not hold on its own and would remain critically important to curbing infections. Only, juggling measures, he said, was a tricky balance when it meant closing shops or barring home visits.
The more we began to open up, Professor Berzins said the more important it was to keep up public health measures such as mask wearing and hand hygiene through to density limits and contact tracing to help slow the virus' spread and ensure out hospitals could cope with the most severe cases.
"Although vaccination is very effective at preventing serious illness from COVID, a proportion of the population either won't or can't be vaccinated, and some people who are fully vaccinated will still get seriously ill from COVID," Professor Berzins said. "...For example, countries with much higher vaccination rates than us are still having large outbreaks, resulting in higher rates of hospitalization and death than we are seeing...outbreaks that we have mostly avoided."
JABS PUT TO TEST
CANCER patients in Ballarat and members of the general public are part of a major study into the role specialised immune cells play in protecting against COVID-19 after vaccination.
Federation University immunology professor Stuart Berzins, in partnership with Ballarat Health Services oncologists Stephen Brown and Wasek Faisak, are collaborating their data with a Doherty Institute trial.
Professor Berzins said the aim was to better understand why some people responded better to vaccination than others, how much vaccine effectiveness might be diminished by cancer treatment, who might need booster shots sooner and ways that might improve vaccine design.
The study is seeking volunteers to offer a small blood sample before and after vaccination. Details: email@example.com.
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