By OSCAR PERRI
As Victoria is in COVID lock-down yet again Territorians are shaking off their hesitancy to be vaccinated, with the three of the five highest daily numbers of jabs seen this week.
The NT has the second highest percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated at 5.5%, or 11,034 people, and over 5,000 people have had a shot in the last four days.
The risk of the virus making its way to Central Australia was brought back into focus this week, when 20 Victorian travellers on the Ghan were offloaded in Alice Springs.
Central Australian Health Service (CAHS) are responsible for Alice Springs hospital, as well as remote health clinics involved in the rollout.
As of Thursday morning, they have given 8,770 vaccinations to Central Australians, with over three quarters of these administered in Alice Springs.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress runs a vaccination program for Aboriginal people in Alice Springs and some surrounding communities, and have administered 1021 shots.
The total number, which does not include statistics from GPs, makes for over 20% of the total vaccinations in the Territory, an overrepresentation compared to population.
As Territorians over 16 outside of greater Darwin are eligible for a vaccine, Central Australia has a significantly higher proportion of the population who are eligible.
Initially Congress received an order of 2,000 AstraZeneca vaccines in March, but held off on ordering more due to low uptake, and were reported to have been forced to throw out about 50 doses earlier in the year.
Congress were concerned by the low rates, with a social media campaign featuring well known local Aboriginal people failing to make an impact.
In their recently published committee meeting communique noted: “The rollout has been challenging, with changes to information, policy and perception meaning that some people are reluctant to get themselves protected against this dangerous virus.”
Since then the amount of Pfizer vaccine available has significantly increased, with all clinics in Central Australia offering the shot to most who want it. Congress say early signs indicate that vaccine is much more popular with their patients than AstraZeneca.
CAHS were able to administer 239 doses on Wednesday, the sort of numbers that were being administered daily in the entire Territory in the early months of the rollout.
On Wednesday acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain described the vaccine rollout, particularly in vulnerable communities, as “absolutely critical.
“That is going to be our best line of defence if it does get into our community on a scale that we can’t control.”
Dr Pain has had to step up while the usual CHO, Dr Hugh Heggie, undertakes quarantine at Howard Springs after returning from a trip to Melbourne.
PHOTO: Congress chief Donna Ah Chee promotes jabs on social media. (Photo by Congress.)