• Queenslanders hav e been urged to get the jab before the state's borders reopen to interstate travellers. (AAP)Source: AAP
Queensland's peak Indigenous health group has 'grave concerns' for First Nations communities if vaccination rates don't rise dramatically before the state's border reopens to interstate travellers.
Keira Jenkins

20 Oct 2021 - 5:23 PM  UPDATED 20 Oct 2021 - 5:23 PM

Indigenous health organisations in Queensland are worried about the impact the state's border reopening plan could have on First Nations communities.

The plan, announced by premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday, would see fully-vaccinated interstate travellers allowed to enter Queensland without quarantining by December 17.

The state is expected to have 80 per cent of its population vaccinated by that time.

But the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council chairperson Matthew Cooke said the rates are much lower among First Nations communities.

He called on the state government to meet with Indigenous health services to discuss the best approach and to "pull out all stops" to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had "every chance" to get vaccinated.

"What I've got grave concerns about is the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders are about 30 per cent behind on both first dose and second dose vaccinations," Mr Cooke said.

"Now that a date has been set, I think it's appropriate that government reaches out to us quickly and identifies ways in which they can work with us to ensure there is a co-ordinated and targeted approach.

"We don't need buck passing from state or federal governments on whose responsibility it is, we need engagement by both levels so that we can get to our most vulnerable people."

Mr Cooke said a lack of resourcing for Indigenous health services, vaccine hesitancy and complacency have all contributed to the low rates of vaccinations among First Nations people in Queensland.

"Our people are comforted by the fact that our state government has given a very good public health response early on in the pandemic, which means we've kept COVID very much out of Queensland," he said.

"We haven't faced lockdowns like the other states around the country, particularly for us living in regional and rural and remote Queensland.

"That, coupled with vaccine hesitancy arising from fear, misinformation and distrust of government is certainly proving a challenge in convincing our people to have both vaccinations."

'Hop on the life boat'

57.45 per cent of the Queensland population is fully vaccinated.

The state's premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited a number of vaccination hubs, encouraging those who haven't been jabbed yet, to do so in the next 11 days.

"We really need to keep lifting these vaccination rates," she said.

"I can’t look after you if you won’t hop on the life boat, just think about that.

We need everybody to get on the life boat and we’ll be protected because we’ll be vaccinated."

Mr Cooke said he's encouraging all First Nations people to get the vaccine, and holds grave concerns for Indigenous communities if the rates don't dramatically rise before December 17, when the borders are due to open.

"Get vaccinated, it's about protecting yourself, your family and your community," he said.

"We don't want to see cases where our people die because they contracted the virus and there was a vaccine that could have prevented the impacts on them and their community."

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