Letter: Vaccination targets urgently needed for at-risk communities
Dear Prime Minister
I write to request that the forthcoming National Cabinet meeting set additional national vaccination targets for First Nations people, people with disabilities and other at-risk groups as part of the National Plan.
The National Cabinet’s ‘reopening’ strategy envisages the substantial easing of restrictions when 80% vaccination rates are achieved. However, this is currently only 80% of the ‘eligible population’, defined as over 16 year olds, and it seems to permit easing of restrictions even if at-risk groups remain largely unvaccinated.
Vaccination rates for First Nations people and other at-risk groups are significantly behind the rest of the population, despite their inclusion in categories 1A and 1B of the vaccination timetable.
The experience in the United States is that COVID targets the most at-risk communities and the unvaccinated, and indigenous people have been one of the groups hardest hit. Here we are already seeing the dangerous impact of low vaccination rates in the Wilcannia community, and the National Cabinet risks a national disaster if such an experience is repeated across the country.
Given the risk to at-risk communities and the community as a whole if these groups remain insufficiently vaccinated, targets for them should be equal to or greater than the existing 80% target for the wider population. I note that some experts have suggested rates of 95% or more are appropriate targets for at-risk groups.
I also refer to my previous letter of August 23 regarding targets for the vaccination of children and teenagers between the ages of 12-15 and reiterate the request that a target be set for this cohort as well.
The National Plan must have separate vaccination targets for children, First Nations peoples, people with disabilities and other at-risk groups, so that they’re vaccinated to at least the same levels as the broader population when restrictions are lifted. I urge you and the National Cabinet to ensure no one is left behind in your National Plan.