With Queensland about to open its border, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is waning but protests are getting bigger – ABC News

Could this be the last weekend with a closed Queensland border?

If current daily vaccination rates are a guide, Queensland is about six days away from hitting the Premier's border-opening target of 80 per cent of people aged 16 and overbeing fully vaccinated.

The take-out: This could be the last weekend with the COVID curtain at Coolangatta.

Nothing seems to be diverting Annastacia Palaszczuk from lifting the border gates when the statewide mark is hit in time for the school holidays,even though at 80 per cent there are many who will be unprotected when COVID-19 arrives.

By Friday77.7 per cent of the Queensland population aged 16 and over were double-vaccinated 3,195,634 people out of a cohort of 4,112,707. It means almost a million people are not fully protected against COVID-19.

And that's just in the 16+ group. Just half of 12 to 15-year-olds have been fully vaccinated and children aged 11 and under are not yet part of the rollout.

There is also still a serious discrepancy in vaccination rates across the state. While the Brisbane City Council area is already above 80 per cent double dose for16+, Isaac Regional Council area hasn't hit 50 per cent.

Health MinisterYvette D'ath is particularly worried about the fate of First Nations Queenslanders, revealing just 33 per cent have had their first dose.

When the hard border comes down, authorities are convinced COVID-19 will come across, and quickly. Both the Acting Chief Health Officer and the Health Minister said as much yesterday.

South Australia is the perfect test case for Queensland. Like the Sunshine State, it had enjoyed long periods without a case of community transmission. Then,on November 23, just shy of 80 per cent double-dose, it opened its borders to New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.

There were jubilant scenes at Adelaide Airport as families and friends reunited and travellers streamed over the border by road. The first case of COVID arrived 24 hours later.

A week later, South Australia was dealing with its first cluster, sparked by a school reunion where former premier Jay Weatherill became infected.

MsD'ath also points to Victoria, where thousands of people have been infected in the latest outbreak, and more importantly, 538 have died.

The pace of vaccination has slowed in Queensland through the month of November, even with the enticement of an open border within close reach, but it doesn't appear to be driven by vaccine hesitancy.

The Melbourne Institute surveys the Australian population every two weeks to gauge vaccine hesitancy and in their latest results only 6.1 per cent of Queenslanders declared they were "not willing to be vaccinated". Five per cent said "don't know", for a combined 11.1 per cent hesitancy.

It is the highest result in the nation, but it has fallen dramatically and steadily from a high in May of 43.3 per cent(25 per centnot willing; 18.3 per centdon't know).

Oddly, while hesitancy is falling, and vaccination rates rise, the number of protesters turning up to so-called freedom rallies has increased.

You might remember the images of a man riding a horse through a protest on the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads in August. The crowd that day was estimated at about 1,000. Last weekend, a rally at Kurrawa Beach drew 2,500 protesters.

Perhaps the impending deadline for vaccine mandates is galvanising opposition, or maybe protest groups are becoming more organised.

The events seem to be unifying disparate groups;anti-vaxxers, anti-lockdowners, COVID sceptics, sovereign citizens, libertariansand others.

Whenever you get large, organised groups of people you attract politicians courting their vote, especially with a federal election in sight.

One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts physically attended the Kurrawa rally, Liberal Democrats Senate hopeful Campbell Newman was at a rally against mandatory vaccines on the Sunshine Coast the next day, and United Australia Party founder Clive Palmer has been using his considerable advertising spend to cheer from the sidelines.

By the time Scott Morrison pulls the trigger on a full federal election which must be held before the end of May COVID-19 will have arrived in Queensland, barring some sort of miracle.

Modelling commissioned by the state government predicts the peak of infections will happen around August, but by the time the polls close we will have an insight into two things: how big an impact COVID-19 is likely to have on Queensland and how politically influential the anti-vaccine/freedom rally movement has become.

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With Queensland about to open its border, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is waning but protests are getting bigger - ABC News

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