Tasmania is about to embark on its four-point Delta Shield plan, aimed at ensuring the state is as ready as it can be ahead of any future cases of the highly infectious COVID strain.
Aimed at learning from the challenges facing NSW, Victoria and Queensland, the plan includes an aggressive vaccine blitz over the next six weeks, with the goal of boosting the state's vaccination levels past 60 per cent by mid-September.
Dubbed the Super Six campaign, a significant part of this will be targeted at college students aged 16 to 18 years old, along with additional clinics for those aged 30 to 59.
So why is Public Health targeting this group, and why now?
We've broken down the latest advice and details of the strategy aimed at ensuring Tasmania is ready for the worst case scenario.
Why launch a blitz now?
A week on from Tasmania's first new case of COVID-19 in more than seven months - confirmed to be Delta - Premier Peter Gutwein said the strain was challenging communities right across Australia's Eastern seaboard, and creating serious health and economic challenges.
While Tasmania's vaccine program continues to lead the country, he said in the face of the Delta strain, more needed to be done.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the timing of a targeted campaign to vaccinate college students, starting from August 23, had also been selected in conjunction with the Education Department to best suit examination scheduling.
Health Department Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said they had been working to determine the right time to bring the state's college population into the vaccine roll-out, with the Health Department to offer logistical support to colleges, with assistance from school nurses already familiar with student populations.
The six-week blitz will also target those aged 30 to 59, with state community clinics set to open on extra days and for extended hours.
By lifting vaccination rates in this age group, the aim is to also bring forward the vaccination of those aged 19 to 29 in state clinics from September 13.
Why target these age groups?
Mr Rockliff said the target age group, particularly 30 to 39-year-olds, had been shown by recent modelling to be a key factor in the ease of transmission of the Delta variant.
"That is why we are going to do a very big push to get this age range vaccinated," he said.
Public Health Director Dr Mark Veitch explained the latest recommendations from the Doherty Institute identified priority groups in the community - mainly older teenagers to 40-year-olds - as being more mobile in the community, and therefore posing a higher risk for transmission.
"They are the people we know from the experience of other jurisdictions, contribute disproportionately to the spread of disease," he explained.
Ms Morgan-Wicks said the Super Six campaign would also focus on those aged up to 59.
"We are watching the percentage of vaccination rates for those age groups, and I would really like to see particularly for our 40 to 49s, our 50 to 59s, those rates to really increase," she said.
"We are probably sitting in the 40 to 50 per cent, for those groups, for first dose vaccinations. We really need to lift those up."
Do we have enough vaccines?
Ms Morgan-Wicks said for the next six weeks, Tasmania had enough vaccines "to do a really big lift", to get the state above a 60 per cent vaccination rate, for those aged over 16.
"We are currently talking to the Commonwealth, and will examine the potential of whether we do need to bring forward any vaccines," she said.
She said Public Health teams were working through the numbers and making the necessary adjustments to allow for the Super Six campaign.
"It's absolutely critical that we take this time, particularly while we do have these border arrangements with both NSW and Victoria, to really focus on vaccinating," she said.
"We do have the stock. I'm confident we have the supply. We also have a very good relationship with the Commonwealth team, to bring forward supply if we need to have that conversation."
What else is involved?
Community pharmacists are also expected to play a major role in the vaccination blitz.
This includes re-examining the remaining pharmacists already authorised and approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines, but who sit outside designated postcodes authorised under state guidelines.
Ms Morgan-Wicks said these decisions would also need to be matched to the supply of vaccine expected to arrive in the state.
From Monday, 11 pharmacies will start administering first and second dose AstraZeneca to over 60s aimed at filling the gap for that age group, as state clinics have moved to Pfizer only.
Mr Rockliff said they were continuing to work with the Commonwealth to bring on more pharmacies, and would look at the expansion of vaccine types and age ranges as the roll-out progresses.
"The Tasmanian guidelines reflect the fact that AstraZeneca is the only vaccine available from the Commonwealth for community pharmacies," he said.
"The TGA advice for state's like Tasmania, where there is no widespread threat of community transmission, is that AstraZeneca is the preferred vaccine for the over 60 age group."
What about people in their 20s?
Those aged 19 to 29 who don't have underlying health conditions or other eligible circumstance, are now the only age group who haven't been targeted in Tasmania's vaccination roll-out.
Dr Veitch said this was clearly a gap that would need to be prioritised "once we have enough vaccines to be confident that we can open up bookings to that group".
Mr Gutwein said if the state succeeded in lifting vaccination rates for those eligible in the 30 to 59 age bracket, bookings could open to other age groups by September.
What's the end goal?
In short, to have as many Tasmanians vaccinated as possible in the next six weeks.
To date, more than 50 per cent of eligible Tasmanians have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 28 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The Super Six plan aims to boost the state's vaccination rates well into the 60 per cent range, with the goal of also reaching 70 and 80 per cent targets more quickly.
"We are attempting to target, lifting into the 60s. We will try to push as far as possible into it by mid September," Ms Morgan-Wicks said.
"That means, we had previously talked about targets for our 70 per cent, and 80 per cent. We are currently re-working our numbers on that, but trying to bring those forward as quickly as we can."
Mr Gutwein has previously said he was hopeful Tasmania could reach a vaccination rate of 80 per cent by the end of November.
"I want to remind all Tasmanians that we are at a very critical point in our COVID preparedness and response," he said.
"Please continue to do the basic important things we can all be doing to stay on top of COVID."
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