Good afternoon. My name is Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Department of Health.
Today, I've declared all of Victoria a hotspot for the purpose of Commonwealth support. This will commence at 11.59pm today, August 21, and continue until 11.59pm on September 2, with review on or before that date.
This is in response to increasing numbers of new community cases across Greater Melbourne, many of which are unlinked, and the identification of a high number of exposure sites. In addition, this declaration reflects increasing concern regarding spread of the virus into regional Victoria, following the identification of new cases in the regional area of Shepparton.
This declaration aligns with the lockdown for regional Victoria announced by the Victorian Government today. I remind all people in Victoria of the risk and request that you continue to follow the directions of the Victorian Government.
I'd like to provide an update on COVID-19 vaccinations across the country.
As of 8.00 am today, over 16.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to people in Australia. That's 51.8% of eligible Australians have now received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 1,733,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia in the past week.
There are four headline figures that I wish to share with you. First, yesterday was another record day for vaccinations, with over 310,000 vaccinations administered to people across Australia; 310,524, to be precise. Thank you to everyone who rolled up your sleeves yesterday. You're protecting yourself, you're protecting your family, and you're protecting other people.
Second, we now have over 80% of people in Australia aged over 60 who have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As we all know, it's critical that older people receive vaccination against COVID-19, because older people are at greatest risk of serious disease and death if infected with COVID-19. We now have 84.9% of those over 70 who received a first dose. And 56.6% of those over 70 have received both doses and are fully protected. And as I said, 80% of those over 60 have received a first dose, and 46.8% of those over 60 have received both doses.
Third, the number of people in Australia who have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has now passed 6 million; 6,103,421 to be exact. And that is 29.6% of the eligible population in our country. These are people who are now fully protected against COVID-19.
Finally, the number of doses of vaccine administered through primary care has now passed 9 million doses; 9,152,957 doses. The majority of vaccine doses being administered in Australia are through primary care, through our nation's general practices, pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, as well as our Commonwealth vaccination centres. And I wish to thank and acknowledge my colleagues in primary care, our nation's general practitioners, primary care services, pharmacists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, and the people who support them in their important work, including our receptionists, our practice managers, our cleaners, and many, many more. Many tens of thousands of Australians are fronting up to work every day, alongside our state and territory colleagues in the hubs, to play their part in protecting the people of our nation during this pandemic.
Our national rates of infection with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours have seen 903 people reported as new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This includes 894 locally acquired cases, with 825 in New South Wales, 50 in Victoria, seven in the ACT, and 12 cases under investigation. Plus there have been nine cases in the people who have come from overseas, cases acquired overseas. We have also had an additional four deaths from COVID-19 reported.
Nationally, we have 554 people in hospital, 94 in intensive care units, and 36 on ventilators, people with COVID-19.
On the outbreak in western New South Wales, I wish to commend the work of the Aboriginal community leaders and the leaders of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, working across the region. The people who are leading the vaccination of Aboriginal people with the support of many other organisations, including local general practices, pharmacies, and Commonwealth vaccination centres. A regional approach has been activated across Western New South Wales to ensure coordination of Commonwealth and state resources. And support from key stakeholders, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and other vaccination providers. Additional vaccines continue to be distributed and administered across the region, and I thank everybody coming forward for vaccination.
Support is also being provided by members of the Australian Defence Forces, and a team of clinicians from Australian medical assistance teams, or AUSMAT. Point of care COVID-19 testing is also being used widely across the region, to allow rapid results without the need to second specimens to laboratories. A reminder that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in Australia, aged 12 years and above, is eligible right now for COVID-19 vaccination.
Finally, I wish to speak about mental health. For those experiencing lockdowns, this is a time of disruption and frustration for many. A time of isolation and fear for others. But also a time when we need to be supporting each other and showing our love and our care to our family members and to our neighbours and our friends. We know that more Australians than ever before are reaching out for help and support. Lifeline and Beyond Blue have both reported a 30% increase in calls compared to the time before the pandemic began. Mental health services have been boosted throughout the pandemic, including expansions for the services offered by organisations like Beyond Blue, Lifeline, the Kids Helpline, the Black Dog Institute.
Support has been especially targeted to those areas affected by current COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. Our mental health workforce plays a critical role in our COVID-19 response, and I thank the many thousands of clinicians, general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, mental health nurses and other health professionals working every day to support Australians who are experiencing distress.
If you feel you may need help or assistance or you need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to reach out. Help is available online, through head to health.gov.au, or by phone from lifeline, 13 11 14, the Kids Helpline, 1800 55180, or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.
I'm happy to take questions. I think I have Steph on the phone.
Hi Professor Kidd, thanks for your time. Just on vaccinating children under 15, obviously you mentioned Indigenous Australians and vulnerable children can get the vaccine. In terms of mass vaccination for children, can you explain what ATAGI is considering at the moment, and why it is taking a while for them to make their decision? What are they currently weighing up?
Yes, so at the moment as you know, the approval has been provided for the vaccination of children aged 12 years and above with the Pfizer vaccine. And at the moment the prioritisation is for those three groups of children that you mentioned, Steph. Children with specific medical conditions that increase their risk of becoming seriously unwell if they were to be infected with COVID-19. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 12 and above, and children living in remote communities aged 12 and above, where we're vaccinating the entire community at the one time.
ATAGI is still considering the further vaccination of all children aged 12 and above, but as you know, ATAGI provides its advice based on the prioritised populations, the people most at risk, and including the people most at risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other people. And at the moment that includes of course young adults, and it's people aged 16 and above where we're seeing the highest levels of transmission. And of course the severe disease we're seeing is mainly in older people. And so we continue to push the rollout there.
Steph, did you have any other questions?
Yes. In terms of, I guess, the ethics, what are the ethics of vaccinating children who are less likely to get sick when clinical trials are still in their early stages? Is that also a factor here?
Yes, so particularly the ethics of the vaccination of children under the age of 12. So, we're still looking at the research which is being carried out in trials overseas, on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in the younger children. And I think the most important message here is that we all need to be doing all we can to protect all children in Australia, from infection with COVID-19. Not only those aged 12 and above, but all children.
And the way we do that is through following the restrictions which are in place by our governments, to protect the population, to reduce the risk of transmission of this Delta variant, and through vaccination. Vaccination not only protects the individual, but also reduces the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19.
When you talk about ATAGI providing its advice based on prioritised populations, does that mean if we had excess vaccine supply, this decision about children aged under 12 would have already been made?
So, certainly what we know is that-
QUESTION: [Talks over] Over 12, rather.
Yes, sorry Steph. So, certainly what we know is that as we get more and more doses of Pfizer vaccine into the country, we are able to open up the vaccination for additional groups in the population. And we've seen this week with the decision to open up vaccination for those aged between 16 and 39 years, and as we get more Pfizer doses into the country, we'll open up further with the advice of ATAGI for other people. Thank you, Steph. And thank you, everyone. And thank you to our interpreters.