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Seek out trusted sources to combat vaccine misinformation

Image of Hope Vale residents Learna Wild and Courtney McLaren also are fully vaccinated with both doses of vaccine and show their vaccination record cards

15 October 2021

Vaccination teams criss-crossing Cape York are continuing to encounter levels of vaccine hesitancy among some residents.

“The reasons for this may include misinformation circulating in the community, personal beliefs, or some complacency,’’ Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Acting Chief Executive Dean Davidson said.

“Whatever the reason, the outcome is that vaccination rates in some communities remain much lower than we would like, despite multiple visits by our vaccination teams.

“We have been engaging closely with communities, councils and community leaders where vaccination clinic turnouts have not been as high as hoped or as expected to see if we can address the reasons for hesitancy.

“It’s great that we have managed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities so far, but we can’t be complacent.

“The reality is that once state borders reopen, it won’t be a question of if but when coronavirus cases start appearing in our region.

“So, if you have been sitting on the fence, thinking COVID–19 hasn’t affected you, please think again and come and get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family and your community.

“If you choose not to be vaccinated, we will not be able to protect you forever, especially once national and international borders start to open from around Christmas and New Year onwards.

“In many cases, we are aware that community hesitancy is the result of the various rumours and social media misinformation that is currently circulating in relation to the COVID–19 vaccines and the vaccination program.

“I urge community members to ignore rumour and innuendo and to seek out trusted sources for their information.

“If you’ve heard something about vaccination that concerns you, or want more information, please talk to your doctor, visit your local primary healthcare centre, or talk to our vaccination teams when we’re in your community.

“We still have many opportunities for Torres Strait, Cape York and Northern Peninsula Area residents to be vaccinated over the next six weeks and I encourage everyone to do so.’’

Mr Davidson said the Torres and Cape HHS had entered into a collaboration with Apunipima Cape York Health Council to provide on-the-ground community engagement in support of the vaccination effort in those communities where the vaccination rate had been lagging below 50 per cent for the first dose.

“These include Aurukun, Hope Vale, Mapoon and Napranum,’’ he said.

“Apunipima staff have been on the ground at Aurukun and Hope Vale engaging with residents and the councils to build support for this week’s vaccination clinics in the two communities.’’

Mr Davidson said the first dose vaccination rate for eligible residents aged 12 years and over at Aurukun following this week’s immunisation clinic had improved to 49 per cent and to 46 per cent at Hope Vale.

“The fully vaccinated rates for people aged 12 years and over at Aurukun currently stand at 32 per cent and 34 per cent at Hope Vale,’’ he said.

“Our vaccination team will be returning to Aurukun – for what will be a fourth visit – from 8-12 November and we hope to see further improvement then in both first and second dose rates.

“We also have further visits taking place at Hope Vale from 1-5 November, Mapoon (18-19 October) and Napranum (20-22 October) and Apunipima will continue working with the health service to build community engagement and support in advance of our vaccination clinics.’’

Mr Davidson said in addition to the Aurukun and Hope Vale clinics this week, vaccination teams also had returned to Weipa for the week.

“The current health service-delivered vaccination rate for the eligible population aged 12 years and over at Weipa now is 61 per cent fully vaccinated with both doses of vaccine and 67 per cent who have had at least one dose,’’ he said.

“However, the overall vaccination rates at both Weipa and Cooktown will be higher than our health service records show as our numbers currently do not include vaccinations delivered by local GPs and pharmacies, or other agencies.’’

In addition to the health service–delivered clinics, the Royal Flying Doctor Service also delivered vaccinations at Lockhart River, Coen, Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama this week as part of their regular weekly visiting medical clinics.

“This has been a phenomenal effort across a diverse region with very remote communities, and I’d like to give a big shout-out to our vaccination teams – from our nurses, to our admin team, operational team, and infrastructure team – for the work they have been doing,’’ Mr Davidson said.

Following this week’s vaccination clinics, Cape York has seen 57 per cent of the total estimated eligible population aged 12 years and over receive their first dose of vaccine through the Torres and Cape HHS vaccination program alone, with 39 per cent now fully vaccinated.

In the Torres Strait, 72 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 years and over has now received a first dose of vaccine through the health service and 56 per cent of people are fully vaccinated with both doses.

In the Northern Peninsula area, 53 per cent of the eligible population has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination so far, with 40 per cent fully vaccinated.

Next week, from 18–22 October, the health service will deliver catch-up clinics at Mapoon and Napranum, along with second dose clinics at Wujal Wujal, Cooktown and Laura.

“That same week, the RFDS will continue delivering vaccinations through its scheduled clinics at Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw,’’ Mr Davidson said.

“From 26–28 October, the RFDS again will deliver vaccinations as part of their visiting weekly clinics to Coen, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama, while the health service will deliver a second dose clinic at Lakeland.

“Then from 1–5 November, we will be delivering catch-up vaccination clinics on Thursday Island and at Hope Vale, while the RFDS will deliver vaccinations during their clinics at Coen, Lockhart River and Kowanyama from 2–4 November.

“We have scheduled an additional 23 catch-up clinics right through to mid-November as part of our already comprehensive vaccination program which has been under way since early March.

“So, there are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated.’’

Torres Strait, Cape York and NPA residents can check the ongoing vaccination rollout schedule on the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service website.

“If there is another clinic planned for your community you can book an appointment by calling (07)  3497 3442. But you are also welcome to walk in,’’ Mr Davidson said.

“If there isn’t another clinic scheduled for you community you can register your interest in being vaccinated by visiting health.qld.gov.au/torres-cape and completing the online form so we can arrange a vaccination.

“You can also call us on (07) 3497 3442 or speak to your local health facility.’’

NOTE: percentages quoted above relate to vaccinations delivered by the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service only and do not include vaccinations delivered separately through other providers and external agencies. As a result, overall total regional vaccination rates will likely be higher.

PHOTO CAPTION: Kubin residents Louis Warria and Clara Lui turned up to be vaccinated and their children Lui-Warria and Sepoima Warria came along also.

Last updated: 15 October 2021