Region’s low vaccination rate poses COVID problem
Parts of the Gympie region known for low vaccination rates could pose a problem for the rollout of the COVID-19 immunisation plan, health experts warn.
The Pfizer vaccine is expected to be the first of the long-awaited responses to be available in Australia for priority people by the end of February.
It‘s understood it will be available for front line healthcare workers, workers in aged care and those working on the border first.
Beyond that, health experts have warned there could be problems convincing residents in parts of the region where the uptake of other vaccines was low.
This includes the Gympie region and the Mary Valley where vaccination support has fallen short of the Federal target of 95 per cent uptake.
Child immunisation uptake in the Mary Valley and Sunshine Coast Hinterland is among the worst in the state with Australian Immunisation Register data showing only 87.5 per cent of children aged 60-63 were immunised last year.
The rate was worse for children aged 24-27 months at 87.39 per cent, while among Mary Valley children aged 12-15 months the rate was a slightly better 88.8 per cent.
The vaccine uptake in the Gympie-Cooloola region as a whole was better; 91.4 per cent of children aged 12-15 months, 89.7 per cent of those aged 24-27 months and 92.2 per cent of those aged 60-63 months had been immunised.
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University of the Sunshine Coast infectious diseases expert Matt Mason said there were groups of people who would be “exceedingly” opposed to receiving the vaccine.
“In terms of changing people‘s attitudes, that’s a really difficult area,” Mr Mason said.
“You will get people like myself who are very pro-vaccinations and then people who are exceedingly anti,” Mr Mason said.
“Sometimes there‘s not a lot you can do to change people’s minds, so we need to aim for the people who are a little hesitant.”
Mater Health Services director of infectious diseases Paul Griffin said areas where notoriously low rates of other vaccinations would be “really hard to crack” with COVID-19 immunisation.
“It‘s such a different vaccine and a different program than what we’re used to seeing and there are some notorious myths that have affected vaccine rates, for example with autism and measles, that has perpetuated and contributed to some of those rates of vaccinations,” Mr Griffin said.
Mr Mason said he was a big believer in vaccinations and said they were necessary for achieving herd immunity.
However, he said he did not believe that vaccination should be mandatory and said some parts of the community should not have it.
“Making vaccines mandatory can be problematic, there‘s always a percentage of the population who won’t be able to have it,” he said.
“Be it allergies, medical conditions, there‘s always a percentage who can’t have it. That’s why 95 per cent is the target.”
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said it will be encouraging everyone who can be vaccinated against COVID to do so.
“The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines represents the most significant co-ordinated immunisation campaign in global history,” she said.
“Queensland Health will work with Queenslanders and Queensland consumer groups to ensure individuals, particularly those belonging to key priority groups, are informed about how, when and why our state will be implementing its rollout.
“The delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations will coincide with communications and public awareness efforts across the country, in co-ordination with the Commonwealth Government.
She said significant planning had been underway with the Federal Government since late last year for the rollout which “will assist to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and protect vulnerable members of the community”.