With Sydney’s eastern suburbs outbreak numbers growing by the day and new cases confirmed in Victoria, Aboriginal leaders are encouraging communities to get vaccinated.

As of 11.00am on Wednesday morning, the NSW Government confirmed a total of 99 new cases within 24 hours, with the source of 36 cases currently unknown.

In response to rising numbers, the NSW Government has extended the current greater Sydney lockdown until July 30.

There have been 825 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the State since June 17, when the first case of the cluster was detected in Bondi.

On June 4, the Morrison Government expanded COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to include all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged over 16 years.

Aboriginal health experts say it’s critical that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.

“Please get your COVID-19 shots! It’s not just important for us as individuals but it’s important for all members of our families and our communities,” said Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

“The more people [that] have the vaccination, the safer we will be.”

Turner, the daughter of an Arrente man and Gurdanji woman, is fully vaccinated. She received both doses of her vaccination at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS).

“It doesn’t matter if you already have existing health conditions, don’t use that as an excuse not to have the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, it’s more important that you do have it!” Turner said.

“You can talk to the doctor at our health services regarding any concerns that you may have.”

NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey shared Turner’s sentiments. 

“I want to keep our Elders safe … It’s very important that we all get our vaccines to keep our families and communities safe,” she said.

A descendant of Tagalaka clan from North Queensland, Dr Casey thanked those who have received their first dose and noted the importance of getting the second dose.

Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO receiving her vaccination. Photo supplied by NACCHO.

As of July 12, over 9.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.

With misinformation circulating online about the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has encouraged people to speak with their local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

“For those who are concerned about anti-vaccine messages that they may be reading or hearing — please consult with your GP or your local ACCHS or visit the Department of Health’s website,” said Minister Wyatt.

“Pfizer and Astrazeneca are made in the same way as other vaccines — there is nothing to be afraid of and they are your best bet at protecting yourself from COVID-19.”

Minister Wyatt urged the “crucial role” that ACCHS play in administering the vaccination to their local communities.

“ACCHS play a crucial role in ensuring access to culturally safe healthcare, including vaccines, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.

“To support the preferential use of the Pfizer vaccine in people aged under 60, ACCHS are being fast tracked to deliver that vaccine to their populations which will result in expanded access to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“By August, all ACCHS delivering Pfizer will be allocated between 15-20,000 doses per week.”

Minister Wyatt has received the vaccine, getting both his AstraZeneca doses at WNAHCS.

“I urge all Indigenous Australians to get vaccinated. It will protect you, your family and your mob,” he said.

Minister Wyatt and Shadow Minister Burney receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations. Photos via Twitter.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has also received both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and encourages all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Please go and get the vaccine,” she said.

“We have been so successful in keeping it out of very vulnerable communities, there’s been only around 160 Aboriginal people infected which is remarkable … it’s your personal responsibility to get vaccinated.”

Ms Burney acknowledged the concerns circulating about AstraZeneca and asked people “not to buy into” the belief.

“I don’t believe there is vaccine hesitancy in the Aboriginal community because we are so good at getting vaccinated. We have great track records with other things,” she said.

“I think that people have bought into the nonsense about AstraZeneca and that it is a whitefella disease.

“You can’t think it is a whitefella disease because it’s not … and AstraZeneca is good vaccine, a very, very good vaccine.”

According to the 2016 census, the median age of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 23 compared to 37.8 years for the non-Indigenous population.

On July 9, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed that of the 47 people hospitalised with the virus in NSW, eight were under the age of 35.

Shadow Minister Burney emphasised the importance of young people getting vaccinated.

“It’s so important for young people to get vaccinated, you can’t carry on the same anymore,” she said.

“Practicing distancing, sanitising, and wearing a mask is not hard, and it’s important … Please encourage your family to get vaccinated and be safe as well.”

Find more information about the COVID-19 vaccines here.

By Rachael Knowles