We need specific vaccination targets to tackle vaccine divides before easing restrictions

10 September 2021

In light of new research showing people on lower incomes have died of COVID at four times the rate of higher income people,  ACOSS again calls on National Cabinet to urgently set specific vaccination targets for higher-risk groups, including people on low incomes, before relaxing restrictions, which could place entire communities at risk.

“Infection rates are rising in higher-risk communities,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said. “Today, Federal and State governments must agree to responsible vaccination rates across all sections of the community before easing restrictions. We need far greater investment to deliver vaccinations to those being left behind.”

ACOSS calculations based on research by Dr Hassani Mahmooei from Monash University reveals an alarming ‘vaccine divide’ between higher and lower income areas. The gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the wider community is also clear.

Nationally, as at 22 August 2021:

  • in regions (SA4) with average household incomes above $2,000pw, all had 35% or more adults fully vaccinated. By comparison, only one in five regions where household incomes were below $1,000pw had fully vaccinated rates of 35% or more, with 70% of these regions having fewer than 30% of adults fully vaccinated.
  • Only 15% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 16 years and over were fully vaccinated compared with 26% of all people 16 years and over.

In NSW, as at 22 August 2021:

  • in regions with average household incomes above $2,000pw, about 75% had 65% or more adults partly vaccinated (first dose);
  • in regions with average household incomes below $1,000pw, none had 65% or more adults partly vaccinated (first dose) and 5 out of 8 had less than 55% partly vaccinated.

“Official data should be released at least weekly verifying the vaccination gaps that exist between different groups, including by income, across the community”, Dr Goldie said.

“We know high-risk groups including people on low incomes are at serious risk of being left behind in the vaccination rollout, and they are clearly also at much higher risk of dying of COVID People from diverse backgrounds, First Nations communities and people with disability are some of those most at risk of the virus and being left behind in the vaccination rollout.

“This is also true for people with chronic illness, those living in regional and remote areas and people on low incomes and people who are homelesss. We are concerned also for people who are not citizens, without a Medicare card, refugees and asylum seekers, and people in detention.

“There are many barriers that make accessing vaccinations harder for different groups of people, including vaccine availability, whether they are being delivered by trusted people in communities, and work or home responsibilities that limit access.

“The community sector is absolutely committed to doing all we can to make sure those most at risk are not left behind in the vaccine roll out. Trusted community leaders and groups are working day and night to encourage vaccination with great success. We need greater resources and support for community-led strategies.

“We urgently need a commitment by Federal and State and Territory governments including at National Cabinet that restrictions will not be eased in a way that leaves whole communities exposed.” Dr Goldie concluded.

ACOSS has previously written to National Cabinet, with the following:

Vaccination Targets & Data Transparency – ACOSS Briefing

Community Sector Vaccination Principles