Fewer than one in three Indigenous Australians fully vaccinated

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Fewer than a third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, well under the 52 per cent double-dose coverage of all over 16s across the nation.

Operation COVID Shield head Lieutenant-General John Frewen told the Senate COVID-19 committee more than 27 million vaccine doses had been administered across the country.

A man waits to enter the Ochre Medical Centre in Brewarrina in Western NSW.Credit:Kate Geraghty

More than 76 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and over had had at least one dose, including 94 per cent of people over 70.

Vaccination rates were lowest among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, General Frewen said, with 45.9 per cent first-dose coverage and 29.1 per cent fully vaccinated.

He said states, territories and federal authorities had identified several priority areas for accelerating vaccines in particular communities.

“These include providing additional Pfizer doses, increase funding for vaccine staff, dedicated Aboriginal family days and Royal Flying Doctor Service targeted deployments,” he said.

Concerns over lagging vaccination rates prompted the federal government to announce a nationwide blitz targeting 30 Indigenous communities earlier this month, with millions in funding to go towards vaccine liaison officers and culturally safe health messaging.

At the beginning of the national rollout, Indigenous people were classified as a priority group for access to vaccines because they are considered more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to a higher burden of illness and poorer socio-economic outcomes compared to the general population.

But nationally, just 165,866 Indigenous people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with NSW accounting for 65,000 of them.

States such as Queensland and Western Australia continue to trail the rest of the country. Just over 11,000 Indigenous people in WA have been fully vaccinated, or slightly more than 10 per cent of the eligible population.

Meanwhile, just 38,640 of the more than 221,000 Indigenous people in Queensland have had two jabs.

Among other vulnerable groups, vaccination rates are much higher.

More than 86 per cent of aged care residents are fully vaccinated, and 99 per cent of residential aged care workers have had a first dose. In the disability sector, nearly 74 per cent of NDIS approved workers have had a first dose, while 66.7 per cent of NDIS participants have had two doses.

More to come

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