Australians are becoming blasé about COVID-19 vaccinations and safety measures as the pandemic drags on, prompting a warning for the festive season.
The latest COVID community sentiment index, commissioned by Pfizer Australia, polled 1000 Australians aged 18 years and older from November 27 to 30 amid the nation’s eighth virus wave.
It found 33 per cent of Australians do not think COVID measures, such as wearing masks, hand sanitisation and social distancing, are important for protection against the disease.
A third (34 per cent) did not believe staying up to date with vaccinations was important and just under two thirds (64 per cent) thought new COVID-19 variants would not have a significant impact on them in a year’s time.
Older Australians were less likely think COVID-safe measures (26 per cent) or vaccinations (21 per cent) were not important.
Infectious diseases paediatrician Robert Booy urged Australians to resist complacency ahead of the holiday season.
“As much as we would all like to forget about COVID-19, COVID-19 is not done with us,” the University of Sydney professor said.
“Evidence shows that the disease continues to evolve and have significant impact in our communities, especially those at higher risk of severe illness.
“With COVID-19 part of our new reality, we need to continue to embed some habits and measures to protect ourselves and our communities.”
Federal data shows the rolling seven-day average for COVID hospitalisations is trending down from 229 on November 12 to 118 on December 4.
Intensive care case averages remain above 50.
The rolling seven-day average for COVID-19 booster shots hit 14,795 on November 21, the highest point since June 28.
But jab numbers have tailed off in recent weeks, falling back below 10,000 a week.
While most healthy Australians are protected against severe COVID, Prof Booy said a few million vulnerable people have not had an updated vaccination in the last six months.
“With many people travelling and gathering to celebrate the holiday season, it’s important to remember that COVID loves a crowd,” he said.
“Taking precautions this Christmas is only sensible.”
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in Australia in 2022 with a tally of 9859, the first change to the top five since 2006.
Provisional figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there were 3282 doctor-certified deaths due to COVID-19 between January and August, down 58 per cent from the same period in 2022.