Indigenous Covid vaccination rates have risen rapidly in the past month, but new data shows the gap is widening between First Nations people and overall vaccination rates in almost every state and territory.
In Western Australia, the Indigenous vaccination rate is just 8% for fully vaccinated people, which is more than three times smaller than the total vaccination rate for WA of 27%.
The gap between Indigenous rates and the overall state rate ranges between 10 percentage points in the ACT to 16.7 percentage points in New South Wales and South Australia. Victoria is the only state in which the Indigenous vaccination rate is higher than the overall rate.
This gap has also widened in the past week. Since the Department of Health started publishing Indigenous vaccination numbers on 16 agosto, the difference has increased in all states except Victoria, with WA again the worst with the gap between the Indigenous and overall rate rising from 16.5 a 19.1 in a week.
These figures raise the question of whether the concerted push to raise rates in regional areas is having greater efficacy among non-Indigenous people.
“With critically low First Nations vaccine rates around the nation, it’s time for the Morrison-Joyce government to acknowledge that this is no longer a western NSW issue,” Labor’s Mark Butler and Linda Burney said in a joint statement.
“This is a country-wide First Nations Covid crisis.”
While debate continues about the threshold vaccination rate needed to “open up” the country once more – even with restrictions like outdoor mask-wearing and social distancing – health experts said the rate of Indigenous vaccination must be much higher for communities to be able to withstand any outbreaks.
NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant said on Tuesday that she wants to “ringfence” rural and remote communities so they have high vaccination coverage.
Chant said she had a strong “equity focus” in the NSW vaccine rollout.
“We are only as safe as if we protect our vulnerable [gente] in our community. And our vulnerables – I use the definition of our aged care residents, our disability home [care] residents but also the people that live in large households, that don’t have the option of working from home, that have underlying health conditions, that have complex interactions, maybe live across multiple households,” Chant said.
“We have to protect our mental health, our drug and alcohol patients, our people in correctional settings, juvenile justice. So my 80% means I want a strong equity focus across that vaccination coverage and we need to have it very high across the population uniformly.”
The chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner, said the target must be 100% of Aboriginal people vaccinated “before we can open up.”
“We continue to work with our sector to ensure they have resources to meet our 100% vaccination target,” Turner said.
Western NSW remains a major worry, dónde 65% of all Covid cases are Aboriginal people, y 45% of all cases are under 20 años.
The region recorded 36 new cases to Tuesday, incluso 23 in Dubbo, dónde 13 people have been hospitalised. Five people are in intensive care and one is on a ventilator. The total number of cases in the region is now 320, incluso 259 in Dubbo.
The far western health district has 43 active cases – 40 of them in the small Aboriginal township of Wilcannia, where a significant number are in large families who are isolating in the same household.
The area has, sin emabargo, had a strong increase in vaccination rates, with government data showing the region is one of the areas with the largest increase in week-on-week vaccination rates.