NT News

Vax help in Red Centre

- LEE ROBINSON

THE federal health department will provide additional support to boost vaccine numbers among First Nations people in Central Australia, as uptake in remote NT communitie­s continues to flounder.

A Department of Health spokesman confirmed Central Australia had been earmarked as an additional area of focus, after a perplexing decision earlier this month to snub Central Australia in its prioritise­d rollout, despite the region recording some of the lowest uptake rates in the country.

On September 14, the department announced it would bolster support for Indigenous Australian­s in Greater Darwin, North-East Arnhem Land and the Barkly. But after a request from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Central Australia has been added as an “additional area of focus”.

“While work is under way to accelerate vaccinatio­ns in these initial areas, work to accelerate the vaccinatio­n rollout across all of Australia is still ongoing, including the Central Australia region,” the health spokesman said.

“Through these collaborat­ive discussion­s, and at the request of the Congress, Central Australia has been earmarked as an additional area of focus.”

Remote communitie­s in the Barkly and Central Australia remain “areas of concern” for the Territory government, with the latest data showing single vaccinatio­n rates of 19 per cent and 37 per cent, respective­ly.

The low jab rates have persisted despite additional efforts by government and healthcare service providers to target vaccine hesitancy.

The spokesman said there was a range of additional resources and support it could provide, depending on what is required. “Congress is working with the National Covid Vaccine Taskforce (NCVTF) to identify additional areas where the department can provide support,” the spokesman said.

“For example, additional supplies to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) clinics, pop-ups, facilitati­ng family vaccinatio­n days, and community engagement teams to assist with education.”

Congress declined to comment.

Congress is four weeks into a six-week vaccinatio­n blitz of the region, with a goal of vaccinatin­g 50 per cent of its eligible Central Australian town-based clients by the end of the blitz. Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is also actively engaged with vaccine provision throughout Central Australia, having delivered pop-up vaccinatio­n clinics in eight remote communitie­s to date.

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