Vaccination rates have skyrocketed across the Hunter in the past week, but the region's medical controller, Paul Craven, says recent deaths show COVID-19 still presents a serious threat.
Hunter New England Health said on Monday that a Cessnock woman in her 30s who was unvaccinated and had underlying health conditions had died with COVID-19 in John Hunter Hospital. The woman was the 10th Hunter person to die of COVID-19 during the latest outbreak of the disease.
HNEH announced on Sunday the deaths of two fully vaccinated women with underlying health conditions, one in her 50s and another in her 70s, at the Calvary Mater and John Hunter.
Latest federal government figures published on Monday show vaccination rates jumped by more than 10 percentage points in almost every Hunter local government area in the past week.
More than 75 per cent of Hunter people aged 16 and over have received both doses of a vaccine and more than 95 per cent have had at least one.
Only Newcastle (91), Cessnock (92) and Muswellbrook (93) have single-dose rates below 95 per cent, and only Newcastle is below the state average of 92.1.
Cessnock's double-dose rate rose from 58 to 70 per cent in a week, Maitland's from 63 to 75, Singleton's from 61 to 73, Dungog's from 66 to 76, Lake Macquarie's from 69 to 79, Muswellbrook's from 57 to 69, Newcastle's from 66 to 75, Port Stephens' from 70 to 79 and Upper Hunter's from 77 to 85.
Dr Craven said fully vaccinated people were making up only 15 per cent of COVID hospital admissions despite representing most of the Hunter population.
He said John Hunter had fewer people than expected in intensive care due to the "good" vaccination rates and he was "feeling more confident" the hospital would not come under pressure.
"There is an air of calm around the hospital," he said.
"We're wondering when there's more travel around the state if the case numbers will go up."
HNEH reported 63 of the 266 new cases reported on Monday. At least 30 were infectious in the community.
Double vaccination significantly reduces the chances of catching and spreading the virus but does not stop infection altogether.
Dr Craven said people with underlying health problems were "doing their very best to protect themselves and others" by getting vaccinated but were still catching the virus from the unvaccinated.
"The message is still go and get vaccinated," he said.
"Millions of people around the world have caught COVID and some have died. The vaccines reduce the risk of going to hospital, to ICU and dying."
The majority of elderly people in nursing homes who were fully vaccinated and had caught the virus had developed only mild symptoms.
Dr Craven urged people with mild COVID symptoms to stay at home and not risk spreading the virus in hospital emergency departments.
He said people who tested positive were referred automatically to tele-health services and would receive a phone call to start guiding their treatment.
The Hunter New England health district has 1097 active cases, 29 of whom are in hospital, including four in intensive care.
Lake Macquarie had 15 new cases on Monday, including six in Charlestown, Newcastle had 12, Maitland 11 and Cessnock six.
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