The NSW government is ramping up its rhetoric on vaccines as hard lockdowns so far fail to stop the spread of coronavirus in Sydney.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard slammed people unwilling to take a vaccine as "selfish" during Thursday's daily media update and attacked media commentators who have pushed an anti-vaccine agenda.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Greater Sydney was now in the harshest lockdown Australia had seen during the pandemic but case numbers were still rising sharply.
"If you want to protect yourself and your loved ones, get vaccinated. That is the strongest message we can send," she said.
The state's chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, repeated the plea, noting that a quarter of NSW residents over the age of 70 had not received a vaccine dose.
COVID vaccination in NSW
NSW registered a record 239 locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Wednesday and two deaths in unvaccinated elderly people.
The number of daily cases and total patients in intensive care have almost doubled in a week.
None of the 54 COVID patients now in ICU, including 22 on ventilators, have been vaccinated.
Thirteen people have died during the latest outbreak.
The virus' highly transmissable Delta variant is testing the capacity of lockdowns and contact tracing.
Both measures were effective in curbing the state's first wave last year, but the government is increasingly looking to vaccines to protect the population.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not revealed the nation's vaccination target before ending lockdowns, but he said on Thursday that they could be a "thing of the past" by Christmas.
But the NSW government is clearly not prepared to let the virus spread freely through a largely unvaccinated population before then.
Ms Berejiklian said higher vaccination rates would give her government the "freedom to make those decisions about how to live more freely".
"Let's think about a time when potentially we live more freely than any other state because our vaccination rates will be higher."
The government continues to tighten restrictions on masks and movement in Sydney in an attempt to stop the virus, but its language on vaccines has become increasingly desperate.
Mr Hazzard said on Thursday that people who did not want to take the vaccine were "being extremely selfish".
"If you think that you can not have a vaccine just because you don't want to have a vaccine, well, you should think about what you're doing to your family and to the community.
"And I would say, even more than that, what a hide you have, what a ridiculous position is that, when you're going to put health staff at risk and, when you get sick, you're going to expect to come into hospital and get paid for by taxpayers.
"You know what, it's time for those who actually think that way to wake up."
NSW Health gave almost 25,000 vaccines in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday.
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