• Aunty Pauline Deweerd, the executive director of Aboriginal health for St Vincent’s Hospital speaks to media during a press conference in Sydney. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)Source: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Pauline Deweerd fronted the daily NSW COVID-19 press conference to confront vaccine hesitancy and make a heartfelt plea for the community to get the jab.
NITV Staff Writer

7 Sep 2021 - 1:21 PM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2021 - 5:58 PM

One of New South Wales' highest-ranking Aboriginal Health officials has made a direct and heartfelt plea to the community to vaccinate themselves.

Pauline Deweerd, Executive Director of Aboriginal Health at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, addressed First Nations people as she fronted the cameras. 

"I see what happens to people who get really sick with COVID who come into our hospital. I see the loneliness, I see the isolation, and you are sick, you can't have your loved ones around you," she said.

"There's one particular Aboriginal patient that we've looked after whose case really stuck out for me. He was really unwell with COVID and was in ICU on a ventilator for many weeks with no family around him.

"He's on the mend and doing okay, but he's scared and hopes he never gets this virus again.

"He is now asking for a vaccine to prevent this ever happening to him again.

Ms Deweerd acknowledged the importance of family within First Nations communities, and the stress and anxiety many are feeling as a result of separation and isolation. 

"Family and connections are a huge part of our culture. Being with our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents, sister and brothers, and extended families, is important to us, and our identity and belonging.

"But right now, our mob need to survive this pandemic."

Ms Deweerd stressed in no uncertain terms the pathway out of the pandemic, as well as the deadly stakes at play. 

"Staying home and getting vaccinated is the way that we'll get through this. It is how we will make sure that no-one is missing when we have the opportunities to get together again."

Vaccine hesitancy was also addressed, with Ms Deweerd making comparisons to routine vaccinations already common in the community. 

"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe," she said.

"Vaccines have always been part of our lives. We vaccinate our children as babies, before we send them to school to keep them safe from the diseases. We vaccinate them to prevent us from polio, Rubella and other diseases.

"If you're unsure about vaccinations, ask the health workers as many questions as you need to, before rolling up your sleeve and receiving the jab."

It comes as COVID-19 continues to spread in vulnerable communities and vaccination rates amongst First Nations people remain low nationwide. 

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Ms Deweerd urged anyone suffering under the strain of lockdowns and the wider pandemic to reach out to loved ones. 

"If you're anxious and not feeling your best, reach out to someone, this may be a professional, or just pick up the phone to your mob and have a good yarn about it.

"Please, stay at home, get tested, if you have any symptoms, but most importantly, please, my mob, get vaccinated."

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