The peak Aboriginal health body for the Northern Territory has called for a 90 to 95 per cent Aboriginal vaccination rate threshold before opening up the Territory’s borders.

The call was made by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance and endorsed by its members.

CEO John Paterson said opening up borders at the national target of 80 per cent would be “a disaster” for Aboriginal communities with overcrowded housing and high rates of chronic disease.

Mr Paterson pointed to western NSW where the virus is currently inundating a number of Aboriginal communities, including one where up to 40 members of one family have been infected with the virus.

“We only have to look at western NSW where our countrymen are suffering. Our hearts go out to them.

“With uncontrolled infections in other states we are in an emergency situation with a small window of
opportunity before the virus enters our borders, to accelerate our vaccination program and ensure our
communities are prepared when the virus comes.

“Vaccination is the highest priority.

“In order to achieve a 90-95% target in our communities we need five crucial conditions in place,” Mr
Paterson said.

“We need physical access to vaccines when and where they are needed in order to capitalise on every
opportunity to get jabs in arms. Access has been a problem but is getting much better.

“We need a workforce above normal levels so that it is able to prioritise and carry out planned vaccination
strategies and outreach tailored to regional and local community situations. Right now, nearly all of our
clinics are short staffed – they need more hands on deck to make this work.

“We also need adopt outreach engagement that gets to where people are and that includes education to
each family, supported by strong Aboriginal leadership, to overcome hesitancy.

“We need incentives, both financial and non-financial, to encourage people to step forward.

“Lastly, we need a stronger focus on promotion in language and in all forms of media – we need to get
the word out in a way that is accessible to and understandable by our communities

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has foreshadowed a possible higher vaccination rate threshold for the Territory, something that Mr Paterson has welcomed.

As of Wednesday just under 25 per cent of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous population living outside of Darwin and aged 15 and over had received both doses of the vaccine, and 41 per cent had at least one dose.