The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warned COVID-19 vaccination rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are “dangerously lagging” the nation, and they are at an elevated risk as the country opens up.
The national double-dose vaccination rate for Australians aged 16 and up is 80.6 per cent, and 89.4 per cent of people in that age group have received a first dose. The national plan for easing coronavirus restrictions is tied to a national 80 per cent target.
But just 54.5 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are fully vaccinated against the virus, the RACGP said, and 66.2 per cent have received one dose.
“And the gap in vaccination coverage between the general population and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is far worse in certain jurisdictions, particularly those currently less affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, including Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.”
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced a new road map on Monday for easing coronavirus restrictions in remote Top End communities, which have a higher proportion of Indigenous Australians and younger people.
The double-dose vaccination target in remote communities will be 80 per cent of people aged five and over, not 16 and over as is standard across the rest of the country. No vaccine is yet approved in Australia for use in 5- to 11-year-olds.
“Simple maths tells us that vaccinating 80 per cent of people 16 and over in a community where the median age is 25 won’t give you the same coverage or protection as a community where the median age is 40,” Mr Gunner said.
RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Chair, Professor Peter O’Mara, said: “The fact that there remains a serious gap in vaccine coverage between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people in our country is a national shame.
“We urgently need to ramp up vaccine access and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly for younger community members and certain jurisdictions, including Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, which we know are really lagging behind.
“So, as we move to enjoying more freedoms, it’s critical that we do more to achieve high rates of vaccination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country – we cannot leave anyone behind.”