NSW confirms nine more Omicron cases,‘room for improvement’ in teen vaccination rate

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NSW health authorities have confirmed there are now 25 cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the state,after genomic sequencing for nine additional locally acquired cases was finalised over the weekend.

Fourteen of the cases are linked to a south-west Sydney cluster of cases across Regents Park Christian School and St Peter Chanel Catholic Primary School at Regents Park,and the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym at Villawood.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant says it is likely more Omicron cases will be detected.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant says it is likely more Omicron cases will be detected.James Brickwood

An additional case,an ACT resident whose infection was announced last week,is believed to have also acquired their infection at the climbing gym on November 27. This case is not being counted in NSW’s numbers.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said it was “expected that our numbers linked to this cluster will rise as further results are confirmed”.

She added that health authorities were continuing to investigate the source of the outbreak and thanked the school communities for turning out for testing in large numbers and following the health advice.

Eleven other Omicron cases have been detected in people who have arrived in Sydney on international flights since November 23. Some of these people who had not recently been in southern Africa are believed to have possibly acquired their infection while on their flight.

No cases of the Omicron variant in NSW have been hospitalised.

There were 208 new COVID-19 cases reported in NSW during the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday,from 61,132 tests. The vast majority of cases in the state are believed to be the Delta variant of the virus.

“NSW Health continues to work with the community to keep COVID transmission as low as possible as we learn to live with the virus,” Dr Chant said.

She added that people should continue to present for testing if they develop any respiratory symptoms and also minimise their risk of catching the virus by continuing COVID-safe behaviours such as wearing masks inside,holding social gatherings outside and maintaining good hand hygiene.

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‘Really important’ to lift childhood vaccination rate

According to federal government data released on Sunday afternoon,94.6 per cent of people in NSW aged 16 and over had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 92.8 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Vaccination rates in NSW have stagnated significantly over the past month:on November 5,those figures were 93.8 per cent first dose and 89.4 per cent fully vaccinated. It is a significantly slower pace than in October,when thestate hit its 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets within a fortnight of each other.

“Those numbers are inching incredibly slowly upwards towards our aim of getting that 95 per cent double-dose vaccination,” Dr Chant said.

However,the rate of vaccination in children aged 12 to 15 hasstagnated at a much lower rate,with 81.4 per cent having received a first dose and 77.2 per cent fully vaccinated,prompting Dr Chant to urge parents to consider getting their children vaccinated over the summer holidays.

“There’s a little bit of room for improvement here as we’d love to see those numbers increase further,” she said,noting it would be “really important” to have high rates of vaccination among school students in the new year.

On the weekend,the Therapeutic Goods Administrationapproved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11.

Australia is now waiting on its vaccine advisory group,ATAGI,to provide a plan for how the shot will be rolled out to the age group,with an expectation the first doses could beadministered next month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Monday that the shots would be discussed at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

He said the vaccinations would be delivered “in partnership with the states and territories” as has occurred with vaccinations for other age groups,stressing he wanted to give children the opportunity to be vaccinated before they go back to school in 2022.

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Mary Ward is a health reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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