• National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO Pat Turner said she's disappointed about last night's budget. (AAP)Source: AAP
The head of Australia's peak body for Aboriginal Health has hit out at the commonwealth's COVID-19 task force for failing to invite them to high-level talks.
Sarah Collard

6 Jul 2021 - 5:19 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2021 - 10:50 AM

The country's peak body for Indigenous health has been excluded from a Tuesday meeting about the national vaccination program. 

The national COVID-19 vaccine task force, headed up by Lieutenant General John Frewen, met with key health and military officials to discuss the vaccine rollout and 'war game' possible snags and problems in the logistical efforts. 

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO Pat Turner said the lack of an invite was 'deeply concerning'. 

"We have not been invited to the meeting that he had with all of the jurisdictions today, which is very disappointing given the efforts we have made to keep our people safe from COVID," Ms Turner told NITV news. 

Ms Turner said it is critical First Nations voices are prioritized, given the vulnerabilities within our communities and the critical role NACCHO and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organizations have played. 

"It's essential given the threat of COVID to our people and we have not had one death compared to other First Nations groups around the world at that is a credit to our work and the Commonwealth," she said.

According to the latest data, approximately 97,000 First Nations people have received at least their first vaccination. 

"We are a priority group," the Arrernte woman told NITV News. 

"We're about 17% compared to the general Australian population, which is 27%, and we're lagging by 10% but that's been an issue of supply but it's also an issue of all the confusion." 

Changing advice 'confusing' vaccine message

She said the conflicting messaging from state and territory leaders over the rollout and changing advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine is undermining efforts to ensure the most vulnerable are protected. 

"It is very confusing and it caused a lot of hesitancy in our community. They see all this going on and they think 'oh it's a problem, I am not going to have it'," Ms Turner said. 

"It is confusing I acknowledge that but your best advice will come from your local health service staff." 

Health data shows thousands of First Nations people who received their first AstraZeneca vaccine have failed to get the second dose — which is needed to ensure the fullest protection from the virus. 

Prior to today's meeting, Lieutenant General John Frewen said he would be looking at every option available in order to assist with rollout logistics. 

"We'll need to be bringing every hand to the pump ... Gp's, pharmacists, there are all sorts of workforces that could potentially be required."

In a statement, The Federal Health Department acknowledged the strong COVID-19 response from NACCHO and reiterated that Tuesday’s meeting was the first of many.

“It is anticipated that further sessions will be held in the coming weeks that groups outside government will be invited to attend. It is critical to work with all stakeholders on the vaccination rollout. “ it read.

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