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GPs call to lift flagging Aboriginal vax rates

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Vaccination rates within Australia’s Aboriginal population pose a “critical risk” as the country begins to open up, the nation’s peak GP body says, as the latest figures show just over 41 per cent of Indigenous people in South Australia over-16 are fully vaccinated.

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Nationwide, 54.5 per cent of Aboriginal over-16s are double-dosed as of Monday, compared to the overall national rate of 80.6 per cent.

The latest data for South Australia shows 41.6 per cent of the state’s Aboriginal population over-16 is double-dosed, nearly 30 points behind the statewide average of 71.2 per cent.

In all seven Aboriginal statistical areas in SA measured by the federal government,

the average weekly growth in double-does vaccinations is less than three percentage points.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners this morning said Aborginal vaccination rates are “dangerously lagging” across the country, particularly in jurisdictions that have been largely COVID-free.

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Chair Professor Peter O’Mara said the “severe gap” in vaccination rates needs to be addressed before the country reopens.

“We urgently need to ramp up vaccine access and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly for younger community members and certain jurisdictions, including Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, which we know are really lagging behind,” O’Mara said.

“We have already seen devastating outbreaks in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in the eastern states, despite the considerable work that went into ensuring these communities were isolated from the virus.

O’Mara highlighted that there have been more than 7000 cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the last three months, with 80 ICU admissions and 16 deaths in NSW, Vic and the ACT.

“The holiday season is just around the corner, but it couldn’t come at a worse moment because we know so many more people will be travelling and visiting regional and remote Australia,” he said.

“While the tourism is needed, it brings enormous risk to communities not protected by vaccination.”

South Australia’s APY Lands earlier this month made it mandatory for anyone wanting to live, work or visit the area to show proof of having received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

SA Health is currently working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to deliver more vaccines into remote communities, after previous difficulties with limited Pfizer supplies hindered the rollout.

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