Fearmongering about COVID-19 is driving “incredibly low” vaccination rates in some Aboriginal communities in South Australia, health officials admit.
The rate of full vaccination for Indigenous people is as low as 16 per cent in parts of SA, including northern Adelaide.
Outback SA, western Adelaide, the Barossa, Yorke and Mid North and the state’s southeast are all below 20 per cent, according to federal data.
SA Health deputy chief executive Don Frater said misinformation was hampering the rollout for Aboriginal communities and better communication was needed.
“We have had some communities that have told us that COVID does not exist and, needless to say, our vaccination rates there are incredibly low,” he told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.
“What we have worked on is sending staff, Aboriginal staff, into those communities for a couple of weeks before we intend to start vaccinating again and talking to people and building the awareness, building the support for it.
“Where we have done that, we have achieved better results in terms of vaccination.”
Mr Frater said the vaccination rate in Adelaide’s northern suburbs was particularly concerning, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not preferred for the rollout.
“We just need to engage them in a manner which is culturally appropriate so that they feel comfortable in coming forward and discussing what is a very sensitive issue,” he said.
“We’ll give them all Pfizer. We’ll ignore any Commonwealth restrictions on that. We’ll give them Pfizer because we’d like them to be vaccinated within three weeks with the double doses.”
Other states, including Western Australia, have also cited fearmongering in remote communities, including from fringe Christian groups, for their own low Indigenous vaccination rates.
There are concerns scepticism within some culturally and linguistically diverse communities is creating a divide between richer and poorer suburbs in SA.
“We don’t have a problem getting people in Unley and Burnside to turn up at Wayville and get vaccinated, and our comms is really easy to pull those people in,” Mr Frater said.
“We need to change our comms and our approach to reflect the concerns and needs of the CALD community and Aboriginal communities in those areas.”