COVID vaccine arrives in Kimberley

·2-min read

The first batch of potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine has arrived at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services in northern Western Australian.

"We knew our only way out of this was a vaccine - to be here 12 months later is a remarkable feat," medical director Lorraine Anderson told AAP.

On Friday a thousand doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to the Broome clinic by a courier, and health workers are due to begin delivering the jabs on Monday.

The medical service reaches just over half the Aboriginal population in the Kimberley, and it's aiming to vaccinate 90 per cent of people in the remote communities it looks after.

Dr Anderson said while some people are phoning constantly to ask when the jab will be available, there's also been a lot of vaccine hesitancy, so staff began visiting remote communities about six weeks ago to answer questions.

"We've been yarning and getting the message across and that's really going to pay off," the doctor said.

She acknowledged there had been criticism of the federal government's vaccination program, but added that the process had been "really smooth" so far.

The chair of the AMA council of rural doctors Marco Giuseppin, who is based in western Queensland, agrees the early signs are positive for the rollout across Aboriginal communities.

"There are some teething problems, there have been teething problems at all stages of the process ... There's always opportunities to improve but in the end we just need jabs in arms," he told AAP.

Dr Giuseppin says most if not all Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations across the country are starting 'phase 1b', making vaccinations available to all Indigenous people over 55.

But he says widespread flooding in several states has caused logistical delays.

"Roads get flooded, trucks can't get through, you could fly it in but sometimes even the runway is flooded," he said.

Federal Indigenous Affairs minister Ken Wyatt told parliament this week that while 150 Aboriginal people have tested positive to COVID, none have died of the virus.

"Aboriginal and Torres straight Islander people have got the worst health conditions, and you would expect the figures of COVID impacting to be much more significant than what they have been," he said.

The government is coordinating with more than 30 Aboriginal-run health organisations, and the department of health is providing messages in 15 Aboriginal languages, he added.

More than six million people will receive the jab in phase 1b of the rollout, including Indigenous over 55s, all people aged 70 and over, healthcare workers, and people with existing health problems.