Indigenous communities go digital to spread COVID-19 vaccination message

Jeremy Lasek –  PHAA


One of the greatest success stories since COVID-19’s arrival in Australia in January last year has been our ability to keep it out of some of our most vulnerable communities, and in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. That’s largely been the result of a concerted and targeted communications strategy.

The news isn’t so positive when it comes to vaccination rates. Nationally, around 141,908 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and over have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Department of Health, or about 24% of the eligible population. More than 60,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are fully vaccinated, or just over 10% of the eligible population. This compares with 41.4% of the general population aged 16 and over who have received at least one dose, and 19.7% of the general population who are fully vaccinated.

News this week of COVID-19 cases (now reaching 16) in the Dubbo/Walgett area in country NSW, with large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, has highlighted the added risk attached to those low vaccination rates. The ABC is reporting vaccination rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is at about half that of the general population and fewer than 10 per cent of Indigenous people have received at least one vaccination.

The NSW Government has announced extra doses are being directed to that area today and a walk-in clinic has opened at Walgett’s RSL this morning to improve the town’s level of vaccination.

Chief executive of the Western NSW Local Health District, Scott McLachlan, has expressed his concern that some of his region’s most vulnerable community members are now at risk.

Member for Barwon, Roy Butler, is encouraging anyone not needing to be tested or vaccinated to stay home.

Understanding the importance of getting the vaccination message locally, many Aboriginal communities are working collaboratively with their health authorities to build unique public messaging campaigns.

On the NSW South Coast, not for profit primary health network, COORDINARE and Beyond Empathy, a not-for-profit community, arts and cultural development organisation, have teamed up to create #fabvac, a campaign featuring videos made by young people yarning with Aboriginal elders about COVID-19 vaccination.

COORDINARE’s Community Engagement Consultant Aboriginal Health, Terry Hill, is concerned that people from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are reluctant to participate in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program due to misinformation.

Mr Hill said, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and older are eligible for the vaccines. But many people in our community are vaccine-hesitant due to negative media reports about blood clotting and other reported side effects. Our community have become fearful or complacent and are reacting to one or two negative events.’

‘We engaged Beyond Empathy to work with a team of young Aboriginal people to develop four short videos encouraging Aboriginal community members to at least speak with their doctor or local health worker about COVID-19 vaccines and asking young people to have a chat with their families about getting vaccinated,’ he added.

One of the videos shows Angela Nye from Katungal receiving her COVID-19 vaccine and being interviewed. Ms Nye says, ‘As an older Aboriginal person with chronic diseases, I know for a fact if I do contract COVID-19 I probably would not survive.’

The videos have strong, simple messages and have been shared across a range of social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making them simple for everyone to share.

Check out the videos below and click the share button to share the videos!

Check out “#FabVac Just a Jab

Check out “#FabVac Protect our Community”

Check out “#FabVac Longer” from COORDINARE

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