The Hunter has caught up with and passed the NSW vaccination rate in the past week, just in time for the full reopening of regional travel.
After a slow start, the region reached an adult double-dose rate of 89 per cent on Sunday, beating the state figure of 87.8 per cent.
More than 90 per cent of people aged 16 and above in Lake Macquarie local government area, Port Stephens, Maitland and Upper Hunter have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
All nine Hunter council areas except one now have single-dose coverage beyond 95 per cent and above the NSW rate of 93.6 per cent.
Vaccine hesitancy appears to be strongest in Newcastle, where the single-dose rate moved only 0.6 points in the past week to 93.2 per cent.
Newcastle's double-dose rate is 85.8 per cent, the same as Cessnock's. Muswellbrook has double-dose coverage at 84.4 per cent, but this has improved markedly from 75.7 per cent a week ago.
A Newcastle Herald analysis estimates that 74.4 per cent of the entire Hunter population, including children, is now fully covered.
About 76,000 Hunter residents, one in every nine people, received their second dose in the past two weeks.
Hunter New England Health public health controller Dr David Durrheim had his Pfizer booster shot on Monday and urged others to do the same if they had their second dose six months ago.
"It's wonderful to have had my booster, and I'm feeling super protected against the Delta strain," he said.
Dr Durrheim said Israel and US data showed vaccine protection "slowly wanes" over six months.
Israelis who had received a booster were 11 times less likely to get symptomatic COVID than those who had received two doses.
"What's even more exciting is, if they've had three doses, severe disease is about 19 times less likely," he said.
News of the high Hunter vaccination rates came on the same day the government opened up regional travel to and from Sydney and HNEH district recorded another fall in daily cases to 30, the lowest tally in 41 days.
NSW reported 135 new cases, a 14-week low.
The new cases included nine in Newcastle, five of which were in Carrington. Lake Macquarie had eight, Cessnock and MidCoast four each, Maitland two and Dungog, Port Stephens and Tamworth one each. Hunter hospitals are treating 23 COVID patients, including three in intensive care.
HNEH has had 1658 cases in the past four weeks, second only to South Western Sydney's 1774 among NSW health districts.
But the Hunter had a testing rate of only 195 per 1000 people in that period, just over half the 353 per 1000 rate in South Western Sydney.
The following is the full list of today's case locations:
9 from Newcastle LGA
- 5 from Carrington
- 1 from Fletcher
- 1 from Hamilton South
- 1 from Jesmond
- 1 from Mayfield
8 from Lake Macquarie LGA
- 2 from Tingira Heights
- 2 from Warners Bay
- 1 from Belmont North
- 1 from Charlestown
- 1 from Cooranbong
- 1 from Morisset
4 from Cessnock LGA
- 2 from Cessnock
- 1 from Bellbird Heights
- 1 from Kearsley
4 from MidCoast LGA
- 2 from Taree
- 1 from Forster
- 1 from Tea Gardens
2 from Maitland LGA
- 1 from Luskintyre
- 1 from Chisholm
1 from Dungog LGA
- 1 from Hilldale
1 from Port Stephens LGA
- 1 from Raymond Terrace
1 from Tamworth Regional LGA
- 1 from Calala