Qld’s anti-vaxxer hotspots to be targeted in jab campaign


Health authorities will target Queensland's anti-vaxxer hot spots as part of its COVID-19 jab campaign, as an expert warns areas with notoriously low vaccination rates will be "really hard to crack".

It comes as new federal immunisation data revealed popular Queensland holiday destinations like the Gold Coast were among regions with the lowest children immunisation levels.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told The Sunday-Mail their first priority was making sure the highest risk groups were vaccinated.

"That will take some time and is being led by the Commonwealth," she said.

"But we'll also target regions where immunisation rates for other conditions are traditionally lower.

"To beat this pandemic, it's important that everyone who can get vaccinated does so."

According to the Australian Immunisation Register, 84.38 per cent of infants aged between 12 and 15 months were fully vaccinated in the Gold Coast Hinterland at September last year.

At Coolangatta, 87.68 per cent of kids aged between 24 and 27 months were fully immunised, while at Pomona in the Nambour region, 86.97 per cent of toddlers were vaccinated.

The target is 95 per cent for all age groups.





Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian Government would have a nationally and locally targeted campaign, and was working with states and territories on developing implementation plans for the vaccine program.

"There are some local government areas in Queensland where rates a slightly lower, however we are confident consistent informative national and statewide education campaigns guided by the medical experts will see these numbers improve," he said.

"Our goal is to have as a high an uptake of the COVID vaccine as possible.

"We are confident, given Australia's high vaccination coverage rates, Australians will take up a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in equally high numbers."

The delivery of the vaccine will coincide with public awareness efforts across the country and will be in co-ordination with the Commonwealth Government.

Queensland Health will work with Queenslanders and consumer groups to ensure individuals, particularly those belonging to key priority groups, are informed about how, when and why the state will be implementing its rollout.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said significant planning had been underway with the Commonwealth since late last year.

Mater Health Services Director of Infectious Diseases Paul Griffin said areas with notoriously low rates of other vaccinations will be "really hard to crack" with the COVID-19 immunisation.





Dr Griffin said he suspected in areas that had lower rates of vaccination like the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, there would be lower rates.

"It's such a different vaccine and a different program than what we're used to seeing and there are some notorious myths that have affected vaccine rates, for example with autism and measles, that has perpetuated and contributed to some of those rates of vaccinations," he said.

"I don't know that our previous information necessarily translates to what we'll see with COVID, but I do suspect in those areas that are inherently reluctant to get vaccinated that yes they'll have relatively low rates here as well."

He said a multidisciplinary campaign was needed to ensure people were informed and had the ability to ask questions.

He said GPs and pharmacists needed to be a big part of the education campaign.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who believes a tailored campaign is needed, said he would be pushing for the state and federal governments to target the region.

He said the Gold Coast was a global city with almost 14 million visitors annually.

"I would encourage residents to voluntarily take the vaccination," he said.

"I would do that on two grounds: that it was medically cleared and approved at a federal level which it would obviously need to be; and to remind everyone that it not only vaccinates the individual but that it is the right thing to do for your family.

"Further, given historical vaccination rates in our city, I would welcome a federal education and awareness campaign to dispel myths and provide confidence for everyone, as the national vaccination program commenced."





Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin also believed there should be targeted campaigns for various regions.

In Kuranda, 88.67 per cent of toddlers aged 24 to 27 months were vaccinated at September last year.

"Yes, you'd have to (have targeted campaigns)," she said.

"There are vulnerable people in Kuranda as there are anywhere else."

Cr Toppin, who said she will get the vaccine, said it would be promoted among council staff.

"Any strategy or any initiative that a government undertakes requires good communication and education," she said.

"People will say 'Well yes I can see why this is important', if there's a strategy in place to empower and educate people."

Tourism Queensland CEO Daniel Gschwind said the communication strategy had to be transparent and respectful to people with concerns.

"I think there will be a strong uptake because people do want to get out of this situation," he said.

"I think we have to have a bit of trust in the community's response."

LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates said she supported the idea of targeting areas with lower rates of vaccinations.

Belinda Todd with her children Marley, 7, and Jack, 5. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Belinda Todd with her children Marley, 7, and Jack, 5. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Gold Coast Hinterland family the Todds live in a low vaccination area but mum Belinda said she and husband Chris were strong pro-vaxxers to safeguard the health of their children Marley, 7, and Jack, 5.

"Kids are born with good immunity but you can't fight against the deadly diseases and that's why it's so important to have them vaccinated," she said.

"As long as it's proven to be safe and effective, we will definitely be getting it and other families should be encouraged to do the same so everyone can be protected from COVID."





Originally published as Qld's anti-vaxxer hotspots to be targeted in jab campaign