By ERWIN CHLANDA
More than a quarter of Aboriginal clients over 16 and living in the area of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress have received Covid-19 vaccination coverage, either one or both doses.
Congress operates in or near Alice Springs as well as in five remote communities: Amoonguna, Ntaria and Wallace Rockhole (where Territory Health vaccinates), Santa Teresa, Utju (Areyonga) and Mutitjulu.
“In our remote communities 25% of resident clients are fully vaccinated and a further 11% have had their first dose,” says a spokesperson as concern is growing over Aboriginal attitudes towards jabs.
“In Alice Springs 17% of resident clients are fully vaccinated and a further 9% have had their first dose.”
Another “really good news” is that in Aboriginal people over the age of 60 across all [five] clinics, more than 60% have had at least one dose with nearly 50% fully vaccinated.
“This means that 549 Aboriginal people over 60 have had at least one dose and 436 or these people are fully vaccinated. This is the highest risk group and we are aiming to get this age group to the 80% coverage mark for at least one dose by the end of current vaccination intensive program.”
According to Australian Government Department of Health data 57% of the NT population (above 16) have received at least one dose.
Congress has 8,308 clients aged 16 and over who live in its health service delivery area. 728 of those had one dose, and 1472 had two.
Congress says it “does not have any issues with vaccine supply”.
What percentage of clients decline being vaccinated?
Congress says it has “only very recently started to collect this information, so it is based on very small numbers.
“A very small number (4%) are recorded as saying that they will ‘never’ receive the vaccine. For the most part (33%) people are saying ‘not today’ as the reason for not receiving or making an appointment to receive.
“This data is based on recorded vaccine discussions in our clinical information system.
“Anecdotally, we understand that most people are either not sure about the vaccine, or don’t feel the impending threat of COVID-19 in Central Australia,” says the spokesperson.
“Many young people in particular believe that COVID is not here and even if it comes we will lockdown and stop it spreading so there is no need to get vaccinated yet.
“They will wait for an uncontrolled outbreak to get vaccinated as has occurred in other parts of Australia.”
There are also other sources of hesitancy, such as misinformation about the vaccine being toxic or having the vaccine being against a person’s Christian faith.
What arrangements are being made for communities where an outbreak occurs?
“The NT government has the responsibility for outbreak response planning,” says the spokesperson.
“However Congress is a stakeholder in this and will provide support for impacted communities. We have jointly developed a major response based on the ‘Contain and Test’ approach which includes localised lockdowns, quarantine, isolation and the necessary social and cultural supports.”
What restrictions of going into these communities and coming out are being put in place?
“We are not the best source for this information. There are no current restrictions that we are aware of, beyond the NTG directives.”
Who would provide food for these communities?
“This will be provided by the Emergency Operations Centre as part of the ‘Contain and test’ response in accordance with the outbreak response plan.
“Congress will continue to provide primary health care in communities we service in the event of an outbreak.
Congress had an operating income in 2020 operating income, including $46.4m grants and contributions and $8.4m medicare and practice incentive payment income.
For over 40 years Congress has provided support and advocacy for Aboriginal people in the struggle for justice and equity, says the 2020 annual report.
IMAGES from the 2019- 2020 Central Australian Aboriginal Congress annual report 2019- 2020. Roseanne Ellis, Amoonguna, Researchers coming into community right way, 2019.