Indigenous vaccination rates still lagging

·3-min read

Vaccination rates for Indigenous Australians continue to lag across every jurisdiction amid heightened fears over a COVID-19 outbreak in the Northern Territory.

Nationally, just under 58 per cent of Indigenous people aged 16 and older are double-dosed, while about 69 per cent are partially vaccinated, as eastern seaboard states accelerate their reopening plans.

In Western Australia, just one third of the 16-plus Indigenous population is fully vaccinated, while the single dose rate verges on 50 per cent.

The Northern Territory has double-dosed about 52 per cent of Indigenous residents as its COVID-19 outbreak grows to 11.

All patients are Indigenous, 10 in Katherine and one at the remote community of Robinson River.

It's the first time the virus has been confirmed in a remote Northern Territory community.

Masks are mandatory across the territory and a lockdown of Katherine will run until at least Monday.

Indigenous vaccination rates are highest in the ACT where 84 per cent of Aboriginal people are double-dosed.

The full vaccination rate is sitting around 79 and 77 per cent in NSW and Victoria, respectively.

In Queensland, about 45 per cent are double-dosed. The rate rises to nearly 47 per cent in South Australia and almost 67 per cent in Tasmania.

As jab rates lag behind the general rollout in every state and territory, the federal government is turning its mind to booster shots.

But the Australian Medical Association has urged the government to balance protecting vulnerable people with helping lift jab rates in poorer nations.

Vice-president Chris Moy thinks it makes sense to prioritise booster shots for frontline workers and the elderly.

"This is a worldwide pandemic," he said.

"We do need to pull our weight in making sure the rest of the world is vaccinated and gets access to vaccine as soon as possible and not to lose sight of that."

Dr Moy also warned lower federal payments for GP clinics delivering booster shots could put the domestic rollout at risk.

GPs receive about $30 to deliver an initial vaccine dose and another $24 for the second.

Clinics receive about $10 on top of that when a patient gets both doses at the same place.

But participating GPs only receive the lower payment of $24 per booster shot.

"With the effective drop in the funding model, there are certainly a lot of GPs questioning if they're able to continue doing it the way they're doing it," Dr Moy said.

With Australia's overall double-dose rate passing 83 per cent, the medicines regulator is weighing up Pfizer jabs for children aged between five and 11.

"It would be a great opening to get approval to the vaccine while students are on holidays in January and so they aren't congregated in schools," Dr Moy said.

"It's about getting as prepared as possible and trying to protect students from outbreaks in schools."

Federal authorities have indicated younger children could be waiting until January for a jab.

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