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Vaccination rate offers better view

Masterton pop-up testing and vaccination clinics .PHOTOS/FILE

Booster rate offers brighter view
World-renowned epidemiologist, Professor Roger Morris.

Covid modelling has predicted up to 65,000 people contracting omicron in the Wellington region during the next three months, but Masterton-based epidemiologist Roger Morris sees a very different future.

Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards said while the modelling was not broken down into daily figures, it could mean the region would be averaging more than 720 cases every day.

The Wairarapa DHB said the number would reduce if everyone eligible received a booster vaccination.

The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation [IHME] projections show that New Zealand could face up to 50,000 daily omicron infections by Waitangi weekend. It said this could peak at 80,000 each day just weeks later.

The institute said death rates across New Zealand could reach 400 a day by May 1.

Morris said the “scary predictions” had New Zealand hitting the peak of a very large number of cases per day based on the experiences of other countries.

“There is a fairly good chance that we’ll have a long and slow spread, provided that we get a very high level of compliance with booster doses, particularly with mask-wearing, social distancing, and following the vaccine pass rules.”

Morris said that if we followed the rules, there was a good chance of a long and slow spread of covid-19, rather than a very explosive spread.

The decider between either outcome, Morris said, would be in the hands of unvaccinated people — particularly those who were actively opposing covid-19 control measures.

“This now is an epidemic of the unvaccinated.

“If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you’ve had a booster, the spread will be slow, and the severity of the disease will be relatively mild in most cases.”

Morris said New Zealand was in an exceptionally good position to survive omicron without an explosive epidemic because of its high vaccination rates.

He said his judgment was that the chance of a substantial epidemic in Wairarapa was small because of the region’s high level of vaccination.

He said another factor was that people generally obeyed covid-19 rules such as mask-wearing, scanning in, and social distancing.

“We have done very well in Wairarapa, and we can continue to do very well so long as we avoid people who are unvaccinated.”

Morris said unvaccinated people were not only putting themselves at risk of serious illness and death, but they were putting everyone else at risk as well.

“There is no sound reason to remain unvaccinated; the number of people who genuinely can’t have the vaccine is tiny, there might be a handful in Wairarapa – maybe 10 people at most.”

He said that omicron would spread, but it would spread slower in areas where 95 per cent of the population or more was vaccinated.

Ministry of Health said that 94 per cent of the people covered by Wairarapa DHB were fully vaccinated, and 96 per cent had had at least one dose. Wairarapa DHB’s latest figures showed that 59 per cent of people eligible for a booster had received one.

Looking to the next few years, Morris said he thought that the covid-19 virus would get milder, and most people who weren’t vaccinated would become infected.

“Gradually, the disease will reduce to being like a severe case of influenza spreading through populations.

“You’ll either be vaccinated and protected by that, or you will have been infected and have immunity that way.”

He said the epidemic would likely fade away rather than disappear suddenly.

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