In the regional town of Mackay on Queensland’s east coast, the local Aboriginal Medical Service is tackling some of the lowest Indigenous vaccination rates in the country.
Only 11 per cent of the Mackay/Isaac/Whitsunday region's Indigenous population over 15 are fully vaccinated, with 21 per cent having received their first dose.
Gooreng Gooreng woman and Primary Health Care Manager at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Mackay, Allannah Munro said she’s fearful of Covid-19 spreading in the community.
“It breaks my heart to think that our numbers are very low. The last thing you want is your community to be affected,” Ms Munro said.
Last month, ATSICHS learnt some of their patients had received pamphlets spreading misinformation about vaccines in their mailboxes, which Ms Munro said only added to the community’s already existing fears.
“Because it’s something new for our mob, there’s a fear of not knowing and understanding the vaccine,” she said.
To tackle hesitancy, Ms Munro said ATSICHS is organising face-to-face meetings with local Elders, in a bid to utilise their respected position within community.
“Our Elders are our word of mouth... they’ll share the information to educate their families on why it’s important to get a vaccine,” she said.
At these meetings, Ms Munro is ensuring General Practitioners will be present to unpack any concerns and questions Elders will raise from the community.
The QLD government launched their online campaign Make the Choice on 21 August to address the gap in vaccination rates between First Nations people and the general population across the state.
However, in communities like Mackay, Ms Munro said she’s learnt it’s more effective to have personal conversations.
“We’ve done a lot throughout our Facebook page but it’s not enough to convince people to keep our community, their families and themselves safe,” Ms Munro said.
“Not all in our community have access to a computer so I think that we've got to actually do it face-to-face.”
Ms Munro said there are for plans for an information session for young people, as well as broadcasting important messaging on local Murri radio.
But she said the organisation can only do so much with limited resources.
“We're struggling with (the) funding now, the government could be giving us funding to do more promotion than we can do.”
Ms Munro said they need more assistance to reach everyone in the community.
“Not all of them listen to our Murri radio, so they (the government) could assist us.”
“That's the only way we're going to get this message across to our mob.”