New data has cast doubt on whether Queensland can reach a crucial vaccine milestone tied to lifting more restrictions.
Vaccine hesitancy in Queensland remains stubbornly high and threatens to delay the state reaching 90 per cent jab coverage, according to new data from the University of Melbourne.
More than 11 per cent of the adult population is hesitant about the Covid-19 jab, creating fears the easing of interstate and international travel restrictions could be further in the distance than originally thought.
At 90 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage, entry restrictions will be scrapped for vaccinated domestic and international arrivals.
Queensland is expected to reach 80 per cent coverage as early as December 6, which will unlock movement freedoms.
But travel from Covid hot spots in Victoria and NSW will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated and have proof of a negative test from within 72 hours of arrival.
Those requirements sparked a bitter war of words between the state and federal government this week, with authorities eventually confirming the $150 PCR test would be covered by the Commonwealth.
But the practicalities of needing a test within three days of travel remains a concern and rules out the possibility of Queenslanders going over the border for short trips.
Health authorities and the Queensland government have repeatedly flagged early January is the expected date for 90 per cent.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Thursday “we’re on target”.
“I’m absolutely confident we are on target and the evidence is in people coming out and getting vaccinated,” she told reporters in Cairns.
“We are steadily climbing up to that 90 per cent and we really do need that 90 per cent as quickly as possible because the virus will hunt out the unvaccinated.”
Ms Palaszczuk warned the 18-39 age group was particularly reluctant, however, and the Premier’s tone was notably more desperate in encouraging those who are hesitant to rethink their position.
“I understand people have concerns out there,” she said.
“Can you please just go and sit down with your local GP or talk to a friend who has had the vaccine — it is safe, it is effective, and you don’t want to catch Covid.
“I don’t want to see families and loved ones ending up in ICU or in hospitals so please, please, please go and get vaccinated.”
Vaccine hesitancy in Queensland is the highest in the country, according to the Melbourne Institute survey, followed by SA at 9.5 per cent, with all other states about 5 per cent or lower.
University of Melbourne Professor Anthony Scott told NCA NewsWire this was likely due to the two states not being exposed to major outbreaks experienced in other major cities.
“Compared to Victoria and NSW, that is certainly a factor in them still having higher rates of hesitancy and low vaccination rates,” he said.
Hesitancy across the country has improved remarkably throughout the year, however, with the rate tumbling in Queensland from 42 per cent in April.
Leading epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said she was confident Queensland would follow the rest of the nation in reaching 90 per cent coverage.
“Queensland is no different from the rest of Australia and Australians are really fantastic at understanding the importance of vaccinations and caring for each other,” the University of New South Wales epidemiologist told NCA NewsWire.
But she warned authorities needed to be more proactive in getting the vaccine to the people across the state.
“It’s a big state and the vaccine needs to go out to the people as soon as possible,” Prof McLaws said. “In fact faster than as soon as possible — it needs to get to them urgently.”
The jab rate among eligible Queenslanders is currently 74.5 per cent full vaccinated and 85.3 per cent have received a single dose.