CANBERRA: Ask most Australians what Canberra is famous for and an image will come to mind; politicians, parliament, roundabouts.
But Canberra, often dismissed as Australia’s most boring city, is on track to mark an international milestone few could imagine: the most Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccinated city in the world.
Like the rest of Australia, Canberra’s vaccination programme did not begin until February and was hampered by supply issues, confused advice over the one readily available vaccine and slow uptake due to a lack of Covid risk.
It wasn’t until August, when the Delta outbreak escaped Sydney and made its way into Canberra and the wider Australian Capital Territory, that a sense of urgency took hold.
The ACT’s public health teams started the territory’s rollout in earnest once the supply issues were sorted – a federal government responsibility.
By November, authorities estimate almost the entirety of the territory’s population will be vaccinated.
“The current evidence suggests that the ACT will be one of the most vaccinated cities in the world,” said the territory’s chief minister, Andrew Barr.
“We expect to be at around 99 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November.
“It’s a testament to ACT residents and their willingness to protect themselves, their family and their community.”
Overseas city-states, such as Monaco are tipping 70 per cent fully vaccinated and Singapore is approaching 80 per cent.
London has just passed 70 per cent, despite the head start it received in its vaccination programme, compared with Australia.
But Canberrans, or “Ken Behrens” as they dubbed themselves, after a media transcription mistake was adopted as a unifying mascot of the latest lockdown, embraced the need for vaccination with almost no fuss – with no more incentive than a lollipop.
“What has been hugely beneficial to the ACT is the efficient vaccination rollout,” Barr said.
“Our mass vaccination hubs have provided the majority of Canberrans with a very easy and simply way to get the vaccine.
“The nurses and staff at our vaccination centres are running the most efficient vaccination programs in the country, with close to 100 per cent utilisation rates.”
health networks – GPs – and pharmacies also formed part of the response, as they did across Australia. The ACT government also worked on its own in-reach vaccination programmes for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, which Barr said helped “bridged the gap for many residents who would have faced challenges accessing the vaccine without extra support, and has contributed to our very high vaccination levels”.
The federal member for Canberra, Alicia Payne, put down the vaccination feat to Canberra’s community of “sensible, caring and civically minded people”.
“Canberrans were motivated to chip in and do their bit to protect their community, and there was a cheerful camaraderie and pride in getting the jab, with Canberrans proudly sharing and liking post-vaccination pictures on social media,” she said.
The ACT’s population (just over 430,000 people) is also, on average, one of Australia’s most educated and highly paid. – The Guardian