• Darryl Wright and Karen Beetson (pictured) are working together to inform the community of the importance of the COVID19 vaccine. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Health professionals say confusion and misinformation are to blame for the widespread vaccine reluctance amongst Western Sydney’s Indigenous communities.
Mikele Syron

8 Jul 2021 - 4:11 PM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2021 - 4:11 PM

As Sydney enters one of the more concerning periods since COVID-19 reached Australian shores, vaccine awareness amongst First Nations People has become increasingly crucial.

Community leaders are urging people to stay safe by following government restrictions, and embracing the vaccine rollout. 

CEO of the Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service, Darryl Wright told NITV News that community awareness was key to breaking down reluctance around the vaccine.

“We don’t want people to be afraid to ask questions, we want people to understand and know the importance of these things… but getting the needle is what we need to do to keep our communities, families and Elders safe,” he said.

Karen Beetson, deputy Director of the South Western Sydney Local Health District said many Indigenous people in the community are beginning to see the importance of the vaccine in light of the lockdowns.

“We hear a lot of people in our communities saying that they don’t want to be vaccinated because Indigenous people didn’t put these things in their bodies traditionally, but we need to understand that we didn’t have these kinds of diseases in those times.

“We are happy to keep having those conversations, keeping people informed and aware that our culture has always been adaptable, and this is an example of that,” Ms Beetson said.

The organisation ran a vaccine clinic Thursday as part of their NAIDOC celebrations, and administered 130 Pfizer jabs, with a further 110 First Nations people booked in for their vaccination tomorrow.

Kylie McCauley, clinical team leader of the Greater Western Aboriginal Health Service, says she hopes community reticence will shift when her clinic receives its delivery of Pfizer vaccines later this month. 

“Our clinic has given about 50 vaccines, yet we have the potential to be doing 200 a week… there has been a lot of reluctance,” Ms McCauley told NITV News.

“The constant uncertainty (exacerbated by) the government always coming out and changing what they’re saying, people in the community are feeling very untrusting and they’re questioning how quickly the vaccine became available.” 

As of 5 July, approximately 98,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationwide have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ms McCauley said that whilst the community is still showing reluctance toward the vaccine, they are more open to a discussion around the Pfizer vaccine than Astra Zeneca.

"At least people are more interested in a discussion when it comes to Pfizer, people were not interested in having a yarn about Astra Zeneca at all.

“Now we have taken the approach of informing people that vaccination is about keeping our mob safe, making sure we’re protecting everybody. We want people to know that the risks are so minimal compared to the other risks we take in life. We understand the distrust, but we want to get this effective message across,” she said.

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