18 Mar 2022

Covid-19 Omicron update: Auckland case numbers continue to fall, booster rates also low

1:53 pm on 18 March 2022

Health authorities are increasingly optimistic the Omicron outbreak has peaked in Auckland, but say the current rate of booster shots being given in the city is still too low.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) has given today's update on the response to the Omicron outbreak across Tāmaki Makaurau. NRHCC associate chief clinical officer Dr Anthony Jordan was joined by vaccinologist and University of Auckland professor Helen Petousis-Harris.

Watch the media conference here:

Dr Jordan revealed that of the 14,128 new cases reported today, 3498 are in Auckland, down from 4867 yesterday.

He said authorities are increasingly optimistic the Omicron outbreak has peaked in Auckland.

"Over the last month, only 11 percent of hospitalisations have been those who have had their booster."

Dr Jordan said authorities needed to wait before making the call that Auckland Covid-19 hospitalisations have peaked.

"There may be higher numbers in hospital in the coming days but hopefully as those case numbers in total come down that will have an effect on hospitalisations going forward."

His main messages was to please go out and get vaccinated or boosted - and added it was not too late to do so.

Getting boosted also reduced the likelihood of passing on Covid-19 to others, Dr Jordan said.

"The current rate of boosters in Auckland is lower than I would like."

Dr Jordan said he would like to see booster rates over 90 percent.

Professor Petousis-Harris said she had been hearing questions about booster shots.

Boosters are part of most vaccine schedules, she said.

At the first vaccine, the immune system starts responding from scratch. Over coming months, the system improves on its early response.

Booster vaccinations stimulate mature immunity and make immunity last longer, she said.

There are no additional safety concerns when it comes to boosters, but Omicron was different to other Covid-19 variants.

As for people asking if there will be endless boosters, she said the main reason for giving further doses of the vaccine will be if a person is at severe risk of a bad case of Covid-19. Otherwise, it may be if new variants arise.

"It all depends on how much trouble to virus is causing and to whom."

Dr Jordan encouraged people to record their test results whether negative or positive.

"We are distributing more RATs than we are seeing results uploaded."

Petousis-Harris said she has concerns around misinformation around vaccinations, which had grown in magnitude, reach and speed.

"It's reaching more communities than it used to, so this is causing a problem across the board."

Meanwhile, Auckland hospitals are under strain, with Covid-related nursing staff shortages described as dire, and have put all but the most urgent care on hold to allow them to focus on Covid-19 patients.

At Middlemore Hospital, five wards are now dedicated to Covid-19 patients.

An initial review of hospital admissions has found one third of those clearly had Covid-19 as their reason for admission.

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