‘Misinformation’ is stalling Indigenous vaccination rates, national cabinet warns

The warning comes as one of the country’s most powerful Indigenous organisations called for military intervention to help combat rising COVID-19 cases in the Northern Territory.

A health worker performs a vaccination at the Eastside walk in COVID-19 clinic, Katherine, Northern Territory.

A health worker performs a vaccination at the Eastside walk in COVID-19 clinic, Katherine, Northern Territory. Source: AAP

National cabinet leaders have conceded that difficulties continue to be faced in driving up Indigenous vaccination rates against the dangerous spread of misinformation in parts of these communities.

Despite being considered one of the highest priority groups, the vaccination rate for First Nations people over 16 is just over 75 per cent across the country. 

The figure well below the overall vaccination rate, which has now climbed to above 95 per cent for this age cohort. 


National cabinet met on Thursday to consider the continued COVID-19 response as  

"There was agreement everyone was facing difficulties driving Indigenous vaccination rates given misinformation in parts of those communities," a government statement said.

The concerns come as one of the country’s most influential Aboriginal land councils has accused the Northern Territory government of failing central Australia as COVID-19 spreads "out of control".

Central Land Council (CLC) chief executive Les Turner said a lockdown was urgently needed in remote communities to act as a “circuit breaker” and “save lives”.

“People are frightened,” she told ABC Radio.

“People are moving around still all over central Australia. We need a rapid response team in our communities who can go door to door testing, vaccination [and giving] healthcare and advice.”

The CLC has called for the federal government to send in troops to help address the problem.

“If the Northern Territory was to ask the Commonwealth for assistance, and have the army or defence to assist with evacuations, also in terms of isolation facilities in some of these communities,” she said.,

“I think that's a viable alternative for us.” 

The Northern Territory reported another 626 COVID-19 infections on Thursday, including 3,700 active cases in the jurisdiction.

This included 17 cases in Central Australia’s Laramba, four cases in Mutitjulu near Uluru, which also had 13 cases overnight and two cases in Amoonguna near Alice Springs.

No cases were recorded in Utopia and Yuendumu, which are currently in a lockdown and lockout respectively. 

The Territory government has acknowledged Aboriginal communities in the NT are among the most vulnerable in the world to the pandemic, but maintains more military help is not required now. 

“We have been very conscious that we have one of the most vulnerable populations in the world,” NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles said. 

“We have a number of health measures in place, vaccination, mask mandate, we consult every day about our response. We believe the measures we have in place are proportionate and appropriate.”

Just over 78 per cent of Indigenous Australians are fully vaccinated in the NT.

Defence has been called upon to help in other recent territory outbreaks.

ATAGI still considering third dose advice

National Cabinet discussions also highlighted an expected increase in reported case numbers when school student surveillance testing begins and winter approaches.

But state and territories reported they saw pressure come off their hospital systems. 

Meanwhile, no decision has been made about whether to change the definition of full vaccination to require three doses of a COVID-19 jab.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews earlier suggested National Cabinet could agree to update the definition of full vaccination to cover three doses.

"This is not a two-dose thing (or) two doses and a bonus - it is absolutely critical and essential," he told reporters.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is still considering whether to change its advice.

4 min read
Published 27 January 2022 at 5:44pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS