Vaccination rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain behind the national average, but have accelerated over the last month after the Commonwealth and community groups renewed their efforts.
Today, the senate COVID-19 committee is holding a hearing on the vaccination rollout among Indigenous communities.
Operation COVID Shield head Lieutenant General John Frewen told the committee that across the country, 57.5 per cent of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had their first dose and 42.3 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
For all over-16s nationally, 83.6 per cent have had one dose and 65.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.
General Frewen said there is currently a 26.1 per cent first dose gap and 23.1 per cent second dose gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“It is a wide gap, it’s a primary concern. What I would say, one positive for the last three days, is that the first goes vaccination rates for Indigenous peoples have exceeded the national averages for the last three days. That’s the first time that we’ve experienced that. So we are starting to see a closing of the gap,” he said.
General Frewen said vaccinations in Ingenious communities were continuing to accelerate, and are up 8 per cent from last week.
“Of the almost 543,000 doses administered to Indigenous Australians today one-third of those have been in the last 30 days – that is almost 190,000 doses,” he said.
“Our acceleration efforts are showing signs of progress.”
Committee chair, Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher, asked why more was not done to accelerate vaccines in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities sooner.
The Department of Health’s Dr Lucas De Toca said the initial plan was to use AstraZeneca across First Nations communities, but after health advice changed there was a delay while supplies of Pfizer were able to be rolled out.