Victoria’s Indigenous vaccination rate has been slashed by 50 per cent after a software error incorrectly tallied non-Indigenous people.
Numbers from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) placed Victoria as the frontrunner in the race to vaccinate states’ Aboriginal population last week, but a software glitch saw non-Indigenous people incorrectly recorded as Indigenous.
The error occurred in any instance a person did not complete the field on the COVID-19 vaccination which required them to identify if they were Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
The National Indigenous Times understands that the software used by a small proportion of vaccine clinics in Victoria.
On Sunday, the figures showed that 47,954 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Victoria had received one vaccine dose, with 30,951 fully vaccinated.
On Monday, those figures were revised to 21,559 having received a first dose, and 12,209 being fully vaccinated.
The same error inflated the AIR’s assumed number of vaccine-eligible Indigenous people to 80,999. The 2016 ABS census data puts Victoria’s entire Aboriginal population at only 57,767.
The National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce put the new vaccination rate at 45 per cent, decreased from more than 60 per cent.
“We have been working with the Victorian Government to correct this issue and have applied a data correction fix to the Australian Immunisation Register data,” the taskforce said in a statement.
The peak body for community-controlled health organisations in the State, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), expressed their frustration over the inaccuracies but are pleased they’ve since been corrected.
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said she believes accurate data will play a crucial role in helping refocus their efforts to get mob vaccinated.
“It’s great to see a rapid acceleration of vaccination rates amongst the broader population in Victoria, however Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rates do not appear to be experiencing the same growth,” she said.
“With plans to reopen the state in the coming weeks, we need to ensure that the vaccine rates in our Communities are on par with the rest of the population of Victoria.”
A spokesperson for the Victorian Department of Health said the mistake laid with the Immunisation Register and the Commonwealth Government.
“We’re pleased that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vaccinations are progressing at a fast pace in Victoria,” they said.
“We accept that this data issue was unintentional on the part of the software provider and the Commonwealth.”
Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, slammed the Federal Government for the mistake, calling it a sign that the Commonwealth “can’t handle” the pandemic.
“It’s a reflection on how the Morrison government doesn’t prioritise First Nations people in this country. Actions speak louder than words,” she said.
“How can you be confident with anything that this government is doing?
“We have people at risk across this country, because this government can’t handle this pandemic. There are so many flaws in this system.”
She called for the data to be put in First Nations hands.
“First Nations community controlled organisations need to be in charge of any data about our people, because we have no confidence in this government,” she said.
“First Nations health experts have been telling this government what we need to survive this pandemic for 18 months. They were ignored.
“This government didn’t listen then, what makes it different now? Is it because there’s an election coming up?”
Thorpe called on mob to get vaccinated to protect community.
“I totally support Adam Briggs‘ hashtag, #protectnan,” she said.
“This isn’t about you as an individual, this is about us as a people and a community and we have to keep ourselves safe from this pandemic.”
By Sarah Smit