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Call to put ‘pedal to the metal’ on Qld’s Indigenous vaccination rate

The overall vaccination rate for Australia edged past 50 per cent on Thursday for people having had at least one dose, with 28.2 per cent of people fully vaccinated with two doses.

Queensland’s numbers are slightly lower, with 44.7 per cent having one dose, and 26.3 per cent fully vaccinated.

Indigenous communities have been considered at high risk from the virus, given both the poorer health outcomes experienced by Indigenous Australians as well as the lack of access to healthcare in remote parts of the state.

The concerns are not without precedent – in 1919 during the last global pandemic the Spanish flu ripped through Indigenous communities in Queensland and the Torres Strait.

The government settlement at Barambah, which later became the town of Cherbourg, was particularly badly hit, with 90 people dying out of a population of just 600 in three weeks.

On Thursday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, while opening a vaccine hub at Logan, that the state was facing a “magic window” of time now that the current virus cluster had been suppressed and many restrictions lifted.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said health officers were working closely with First Nations communities across the state to try to lift the vaccination rate at a faster rate than previously.

“In many of our rural and remote communities, we provide outreach clinics to each individual community,” the spokesperson said.

“For example, we recently worked with the local council in Cherbourg to hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic that also included community activities, such as a yarning circle.”

That outreach resulted in 1100 doses administered to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous locals.

The government has also recently run a similar pop-up vaccination clinic in the community of Murgon, which borders Cherbourg, for three days from Wednesday to Friday this week.

The vaccination rate in Queensland’s Indigenous population is varied by both location and age groups.

The numbers increase rapidly from younger to older cohorts, with younger age groups having very low rates, while those over 70 have a rate comparable with the general population.

While some regional centres have relatively low rates of vaccination, 51 per cent of the eligible population in the Torres Strait are fully vaccinated, with Thursday Island specifically recording a 59 per cent vaccination rate.

Professor Ward said those cases were specifically driven by pressing need, with communities in the Torres Strait having contact with COVID-ravaged Papua New Guinea.

There was also a push to vaccinate the population of Palm Island following the recent scare in Townsville, driving up the vaccination rate there.

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