People at high risk must not be left to come last in vaccination race – ACOSS

Ahead of the National Cabinet meeting, Australia’s community sector is calling for urgent action from the federal, state and territory governments to ensure high-risk groups are not left behind in the vaccination rollout.

The community sector is recommending specific vaccination targets for high-risk groups and that population and location specific data be released at least weekly.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – of which CCA is a member – has welcomed the engagement by Operation COVID Shield and the Vaccination Taskforce with the community sector. ACOSS has shared with them its serious concerns that high-risk groups are being left behind in achieving vaccination coverage. The Federal Government and National Cabinet need to take urgent action to address these major gaps in partnership with the community sector to ensure no one is left behind, dangerously exposed.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie (pictured) said:

“We know high-risk groups are being left behind in the vaccination roll out. 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 at risk of homelessness. We’re concerned too 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. This can include where vaccines are available, whether they are being delivered by trusted people and communities, work or home responsibilities that limit access and more.

“When it comes to setting targets, we can’t just say, for example, that we need to get to 80% vaccinated, full stop. This would leave a serious risk that groups of people most at risk have vaccination rates far lower than the national rate, leaving them exposed to the ravages of COVID. We need to make sure no one is left behind in the vaccine rollout,” Dr Goldie said.

ACOSS has written to National Cabinet, with:

Community Colleges Australia Comment

CCA has taken a strong stance in favour of supporting vaccination efforts. CCA actively participates in the ACOSS Community Sector Vaccine Rollout working group. Recently CEO Dr Don Perlgut wrote an analysis of how mandatory vaccination is likely to affect Australian universities, TAFEs, adult and community education (ACE) organisations and other vocational education and training (VET) providers.

Combined, Australian VET providers and universities comprise about 6 million people: more than one-third of Australians aged 15 to 64 are connected to a post-secondary institution. With 4.2 million VET students (including almost half a million studying with community providers) and 1.5 million university students, almost 5.7 million Australian residents participate in post-secondary education, exceeding the 4 million school students. Add the almost 250,000 people are employed in the VET workforce and 130,000 in Australian universities, with some allowance given to those both working and studying in the sectors.

Many universities are providing COVID-19 vaccinations to their staff and students, although few if any TAFEs or RTOs do, and a quick review of universities, TAFEs and large RTOs shows that information, messaging and accessibility for staff and students is inconsistent.

“This is a great opportunity for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to maximise vaccination messaging, outreach and distribution to high priority groups. The VET sector, in particular, reaches many lower income, Indigenous, multicultural, and regional and rural communities and learners – the very groups that the ACOSS research shows are most vulnerable and being passed by. Why waste this resource at such an important time?” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of CCA.

“None of the existing resources from government and regulatory sources take up the full communications opportunities and channels for promotion of vaccinations to the post-secondary education sector,” said Dr Perlgut.

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