Continued vaccine hesitancy in Indigenous communities has Australia’s COVID-19 rollout coordinator worried, amid fears about what will happen once the country reopens.
Just 23 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and older are double-dosed, and 40 per cent are partially vaccinated.
COVID-19 Taskforce Commander Lieutenant General John Frewen has blamed brand damage to AstraZeneca vaccines as well as continued hesitancy about getting a jab.
“We’ve certainly raised the issue of inequality (in the take up of vaccines), it’s being discussed, it is of concern,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
The low take-up is of particular concern with national vaccine thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent set to trigger the relaxation of virus restrictions in parts of the country later this year.
“It’s about getting the numbers up and getting them closer to where the national averages are,” Lt Gen Frewen said.
He unveiled a plan earlier this month to address low vaccination rates in 30 communities, seven months into the country’s vaccine rollout.
“We’re looking at super clinics and family days, and lots and lots of communication,” Lt Gen Frewen said.
“Hesitancy is one of the most significant things through many of those communities and it’s taken root.
“It’s hard to shift but we’ve got to get the right information, we’ve got to get the right local leadership pushing the vaccination message.”
The federal government on Tuesday announced an extra $7.7 million for the Indigenous peak health body NACCHO, on top of $19 million already provided to support the pandemic response.
The funding will allow more vaccine liaison officers to be employed, working directly with remote communities.
It will also provide more community engagement activities, address vaccine hesitancy and facilitate informed consent.
Across the country, around 43 per cent of all Australians aged 16 and older are fully jabbed with about 68 per cent partially immunised.