'All a bit late': Health authorities scramble to improve Hunter's Aboriginal COVID-19 vaccination rates

Awabakal chief executive officer Raylene Gordon says attempts to increase Aboriginal vaccination rates in the Hunter are "all a bit late".

Latest federal government figures show only 44.5 per cent of the Hunter's 21,000 Indigenous people aged 15 and over were fully vaccinated on October 5, six days before the government starts easing lockdown restrictions.

Just under 74 per cent of Indigenous adults had received a single dose.

The rate of double-dose vaccination in the Hunter Indigenous population is 25 percentage points lower than the overall state average.

SLOW GOING: Jasmine Adnum helping out at an Awabakal pop-up vaccination clinic with registered nurse Michelle Schott at Lowlands Bowling Club on Thursday. Picture: Marina Neil

SLOW GOING: Jasmine Adnum helping out at an Awabakal pop-up vaccination clinic with registered nurse Michelle Schott at Lowlands Bowling Club on Thursday. Picture: Marina Neil

Hunter New England Health is trying to improve Indigenous vaccine coverage with a series of walk-in clinics across the district.

HNEH has declared the Belmont vaccination hub a walk-in clinic for Aboriginal people aged 12 and over every day of the week.

The vaccination centre at Muswellbrook Community Health will also accept Aboriginal people with no booking from Mondays to Thursdays from 10am to 3pm.

HNEH has also arranged walk-in Pfizer clinics at East Maitland Community Health Centre on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm and Weston's Finding Yellow Hall in Station Street on Friday from 10am to 4pm.

Awabakal vaccinated about 50 people at a pop-up clinic at Lowlands Bowling Club in Cooks Hill on Thursday after a lower-than-expected turnout.

Ms Gordon said governments should have moved far sooner to connect Aboriginal people with vaccines.

"It should have been prioritised with aged care and the NDIS earlier in the year," she said.

"The issue for us is next Monday that's going to be a challenge because positive cases will rise."

She said vaccine hubs run by non-Indigenous services were "not as successful for Aboriginal people".

"They are hard to get to, the book-in system is not easy and trust is an issue around the vaccine."

Ms Gordon said Aboriginal populations were particularly susceptible to COVID-19 because of higher rates of existing medical conditions, housing, family and social structures and other socioeconomic realities.

HNEH will allow club, restaurant and hotel workers to receive Pfizer shots at the Belmont hub on Sunday without a booking.

The health service said additional Pfizer appointments were available at its Belmont and Muswellbrook hubs.

Hundreds of people are failing to turn up for vaccine bookings at the Belmont hub, including 400 on Saturday, prompting Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper to urge residents to cancel online appointments if they secured an earlier booking elsewhere.

"If you have an old appointment date which you no longer need, please cancel it so others can fill the spot," he said.

Mr Piper said walk-in clinics would pop up in Morisset and Toronto one day next week.

HNEH recorded 83 new cases on Thursday, including 26 in Lake Macquarie local government area, 14 in Maitland, 13 in Cessnock, 13 in Newcastle, eight in Tamworth, three in MidCoast, two in Muswellbrook, two in Port Stephens, one in Gunnedah and one in Singleton.

This story 'All a bit late' for Aboriginal vax push says Awabakal CEO first appeared on Newcastle Herald.